Fighting the Good Fight: Engineers vs. COVID-19
By Engine Room Posted 12mth(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes
From small gin distilleries to global brands like IKEA, companies are using their powers for good in this global fight against COVID-19. Just like these businesses, while us engineers may not be physically fighting on the frontline, the innovations we develop are. From the “battle armour” worn by our healthcare workers to ventilators that support those in critical condition, engineers play an essential role in making sure the world has the best resources needed to fight (and win) this battle.
Here are some ways we’re making a difference.
Protecting our frontline workers
Doctors and nurses on the frontlines can use up to a dozen protective N95 masks in a day. With global infection numbers increasing daily, it’s no surprise that we’re facing a global shortage of masks. So how can we make sure that our healthcare workers stay protected?
R&D engineers at ExxonMobil have collaborated with experts from the Global Centre for Medical Innovation to develop a new protective mask that improves coverage of your nose and mouth. It uses disposable filter cartridges which can be replaced between shifts, making the masks completely reusable - they just need to be sterilised between uses. Fun fact: it also uses the same dust-repelling filter fabric that covers the speakers in our car’s sound system!
Small changes, big impacts. These redesigned masks will go a long way in addressing the current shortage of masks and keep our healthcare heroes safe.
Helping patients breathe easy
What do vacuum cleaners and ventilators have in common? Quite a lot, actually! They both pump air efficiently and are dependent on filters. Dyson, creator of bladeless fans, bagless vacuum cleaners and our favourite hairdryer, has answered a call by the UK government to address the growing shortage of ventilators. In just ten days, they developed CoVent, a ventilator designed specifically for the clinical needs of COVID-19.
Using their air purifier expertise, Dyson can make sure that CoVent delivers a high quality of filtered, clean air for patients. It’s also powered using their existing digital motor technology. In fact, that very motor is being produced right here in Singapore - at Tuas, to be precise!
The ventilator is currently being tested by regulatory authorities. If approved, Dyson aims to produce 10,000 ventilators to help hospitals globally, potentially saving even more lives.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our healthcare heroes
In Italy, Tommy is one of six robot nurses helping to treat coronavirus patients. He’s pretty independent and can be left alone to monitor patients while his human counterparts look after those with more serious conditions.
At home, robots are joining the frontline fight too! Ella is no stranger to hard work and has been helping keep Singapore sparkling clean. But she’s recently levelled up and will be deployed to Alexandra Hospital to carry out cleaning tasks in isolation wards. Created by LionsBot International, a Singapore-based robotics company, she’s so Singaporean she can even chat to patients in our four languages, as well as Singlish!
Robots are joining the fight in so many other ways too - from testing patients in China and Spain to delivering our groceries. But most importantly, they’re taking a load of our frontline workers and helping to reduce the spread of infections. GO ROBOTS!
Innovating for the future
#throwback to the 2003 SARS outbreak. The old-school Phua Chu Kang rap about sar-viving SARS wasn’t the only good thing that we created. Local firm, MTech Imaging, also created the world’s first infrared-based mass temperature screening system in just a week. Although its sensors could only detect relative temperature differences, it was the most sensitive scanner in the world then and deployed worldwide.
Fast forward to today. Just like us humans, thermal scanners have to keep up with the times. The latest one, known as iThermo, was developed by the Integrated Health Information Systems and local medtech start-up KroniKare. This scanner is much smaller and needs only a smartphone fitted with thermal and 3D laser cameras. Using artificial intelligence, it can measure temperature up to a distance of 3m away.
With COVID-19 being more infectious than SARS, temperature screenings are being held almost everywhere, not just at airports. This new and improved thermal scanner minimises long queues and requires less staff, which means less people potentially exposed to the virus.
Amidst this fear and confusion, our engineering tribe has proven that not only is our work relevant and critical to our everyday lives, but they also play an important role in fighting global pandemics. With all that COVID-19 has thrown our way - from global mask shortages to long queues for temperature screening - we’ve come together to innovate and create new products that keep our loved ones safe and protected. Because #SGUnited, amirite?