The HVM Catapult’s AMRC has transformed their cutting-edge research facility in North Wales into a production hub, in order to produce thousands of medical ventilators as part of the national effort to help the NHS respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Following its new role as medical ventilator manufacturer, the AMRC Cymru director reflects on this important change of direction.
“To be just a small part of this national effort will undoubtedly be the biggest highlight of my entire career and I’m extremely proud to be leading our amazing AMRC Cymru team through it.” – Andy Silcox, Research Director at AMRC Cymru
The AMRC Cymru Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre
Back in November 2019, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s new facility in Broughton first opened its doors. This state-of-the-art centre was intended as a catalyst for growth across North Wales, providing businesses with new levels of research and development opportunities.
Ambitions to bring the latest technologies in the aerospace, automotive, nuclear and food industries to Deeside have been put on hold as the centre undertakes the important task of producing life-saving medical equipment.
AMRC Cymru’s Role as Medical Ventilator Manufacturer
The possibility of repurposing the research centre for the manufacture of medical ventilators was put forward in March, at the very beginning of the government’s challenge to UK manufacturers to produce large numbers of medical devices.
Led by High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s CEO Dick Elsy, an industrial consortium of UK organisations formed to fast track the production of high-quality ventilator systems.
AMRC Cymru have been involved in responding to the government’s order of 15,000 Penlon ventilator devices, manufacturing two key sub-assemblies: the absorber and the flow meter units.
This is no small operation. With eight assembly lines for each sub-assembly, each requiring 88 operators per shift, the centre is managing around 500 workers. To limit the amount of contact between workers, they are operating on a four days on, four days off rota to ensure social distancing at all times.
In order to comply with social distancing and health and safety measures, a larger team of security guards now screen the 350 shop floor workers. To protect their health and those of others around them, each worker is asked to sanitize their hands and have their temperature taken by a thermal imaging camera before starting work. Anyone with a temperature above the average of 37.5˚C is not permitted into the building.
In addition, the building is also covered by 24/7 cleaning, security and maintenance, arranged by Chris Garlick at the University of Sheffield’s estates team.
As a leading centre for research and innovation, the team has been making use of their excellent modelling and simulation capabilities. For example, engineer, Xuan Sheng Tie, created a model in Process Simulate to plan the logistics around shift breaks and operators’ movements for maximum safety.
“To see the way everyone has pulled together to get this done has been massively uplifting. It has also been an affirmation for me of just how brilliant the UK manufacturing sector is and it gives me a lot of faith that the overall AMRC mission is worthwhile and that we will be part of an incredible bounce back by the sector once this crisis is over.”
– Andy Silcox, Research Director at AMRC Cymru
The AMRC is a network of world-leading research and innovation centres working with advanced manufacturing companies of all sizes. The centre has risen to the ventilator challenge by producing 3D printed protective face masks for NHS staff and augmented reality headsets to enable production line operatives to rapidly switch to the manufacture of life-saving medical products.
What is the Ventilator Challenge UK?
The Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium is led by Dick Elsy, CEO of High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and includes many UK engineering companies, including the AMRC and Airbus.
The consortium has come together to produce medical ventilators for the UK, accelerating production of an agreed new design, based on existing technologies, which can be assembled from materials and parts in current production.
Learn more about the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium here.