A ST HELENS medical company has joined the Formula 1 racing industry's efforts to create ventilators to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Inovus Medical is a multi-award winning firm which designs and manufactures simulators for teaching doctors and surgeons how to safely perform tasks such as keyhole surgery.

When the pandemic began to grip the UK throughout March, the company realised it was in "a unique position to help the fight against the virus on multiple fronts".

After a consortium of seven F1 teams, supported by leading medical device manufacturers, responded to the Government’s challenge to design and the ventilators as part of Project Pitlane, component parts were needed in high volume.

The consortium turned to a group of manufacturing firms with the skills and equipment to enable large scale manufacturing with lightning fast turnaround.

Among them is Inovus, which has also designed and produced emergency face visors, which are being made in their thousands each day.

The company, which is based on Wharton Street, at the Sherdley Road Industrial Estate, was started in a garage in 2012 by Dr Elliot Street and Jordan Van Flute.

St Helens Star:

A member of the Inovus manufacturing team breaking out the individual components of the latest 3D print run

Inovus Medical CEO, Dr Street, said: “The various products needed by front line healthcare staff in the fight against the pandemic have been well publicised over the last few weeks with two items (Ventilators and PPE) becoming overnight household words.

"Having seen the overwhelming demand for these items and knowing the unique position we as a company are in to design and manufacture both, we took the decision to convert our manufacturing lines to aid in the production of ventilators and face visors in the hope that we can do our bit in the fight against COVID-19.”

The Inovus Medical design and engineering team is making components for the ventilators and the first parts were delivered to the consortium in under a week from receiving the call to help.

Inovus has also designed an emergency face visor which uses the same production level 3D printing technology as that used for the ventilator parts to enable large scale manufacturing and supply.

Within a week of the first request for face visors the Inovus Medical team designed and tested the product and installed a new manufacturing and assembly line in their St Helens-based factory.

St Helens Star:

Completed ventilator parts ready for shipping

Demand has been overwhelming with thousands of visors already delivered to frontline carers across the UK.

Inovus CTO, Jordan Van Flute said: "We were aware of a number of existing designs from companies manufacturing face shields using 3D printing and we applaud each and every one of them for this and urge them to continue producing these as fast as they can.

"Knowing the scale of demand ahead of us, we were however, worried that the various designs utilising 3D printing would not be able to keep pace with the huge volumes of visors that would be required over the coming months.

"Our team has proven time and again that taking a contrarian approach to design can allow us to utilise 3D printing for high volume manufacturing.

"Having applied this approach to the visor design we have been able to take a product that could be manufactured in the hundreds of units per day and increased our capacity to thousands per day.

"This will allow us to help protect even more frontline workers and continue doing our bit in the fight against COVID-19.”

Demand has been so high for the visors that the company has had to upscale its manufacturing workforce by 100 per cent to help meet the need.

The team is producing at a rate of 3,000 – 5,000 visors per day and are currently helping to support a number of NHS trusts and social care services across the UK with their PPE needs.

Inovus chair, Glenn Cooper: said: “It is great knowing that we are able to help protect thousands of healthcare workers while at the same time creating jobs during a difficult time for many in the workforce.

"Safety of our staff and customers is key and as such we are making every effort to ensure the facility is run in line with the government advice on distancing while we remain open to perform these critical functions.”