Mercedes' F1 team builds breathing aid for coronavirus patients in under 100 hours

Seven F1 teams are helping patients suffering from COVID-19.

March 30, 2020, 11:09 AM

The Mercedes-AMG Formula One team is breaking records again.

It took fewer than 100 hours for engineers at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains and University College London Hospital (UCLH) to produce a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a type of breathing aid that can assist COVID-19 patients, from the teams' initial meeting on March 18.

Engineers analyzed and disassembled an off-patent device and deployed computer simulations to enhance the device's design for state-of-the-art mass production.

Now, 100 breathing aids will be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials with the goal of a rapid rollout in the coming weeks.

PHOTO: Part of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid, developed in less than a week by mechanical engineers, doctors and the Mercedes Formula 1 team in conjunction with University College London (UCL).
Part of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid, developed in less than a week by mechanical engineers, doctors and the Mercedes Formula 1 team in conjunction with University College London (UCL).
UCL via AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of patients infected with novel coronavirus have flooded hospitals around the world, many of them unable to breathe.

CPAPs deliver air and oxygen into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate, increasing the amount of oxygen into the lungs. They have been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China and have been shown to help patients avoid the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.

"These devices will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used only for the most severely ill," UCLH critical care consultant Mervyn Singer said in a statement. "We hope they will make a real difference to hospitals across the U.K. by reducing demand on intensive care staff and beds, as well as helping patients recover without the need for more invasive ventilation."

Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, added: "The Formula One community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the 'Project Pitlane' collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects. We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe."

PHOTO: Components of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid, developed in less than a week by mechanical engineers, doctors and the Mercedes Formula 1 team in conjunction with University College London (UCL).
Components of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid, developed in less than a week by mechanical engineers, doctors and the Mercedes Formula 1 team in conjunction with University College London (UCL).
UCL via AFP/Getty Images

Seven Formula One teams have united for "Project Pitlane," an industry-wide effort in the U.K. to manufacture and deliver respiratory devices to COVID-19 patients. According to Formula One, the project will "pool the resources and capabilities of its member teams to greatest effect, focusing on the core skills of the F1 industry: rapid design, prototype manufacture, test and skilled assembly."

McLaren Racing said Sunday it was manufacturing components for ventilators at its machine shop as part of the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium, a collaboration of industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors to produce medical ventilators for the U.K.

The coronavirus pandemic has put an indefinite hold on the 2020 F1 season. The next two races -- the Dutch Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix -- are scheduled for May and F1 officials have signaled that both could be postponed.

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