Panasonic’s Cardiff facility produces breathing devices to assist COVID-19 patients

Image of the first production run with just a small number of those involved in the project (Left to right – Gareth Jones (Panasonic Manufacturing UK, Home Appliance Division, Business Development Manager), Fran Hawkes (Process Engineering), Jason Bevan (Manufacturing Team Leader), Kevin Jones (MD of Mobile Solutions Business Division EU), Rob Blowers (Home Appliance Division Director).

The team at Panasonic Manufacturing UK’s facility in Cardiff have produced 80 prototype breathing devices to assist hospital patients suffering from COVID-19. The emergency breathing aid – a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device – was designed by Dr Rhys Thomas at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen and Maurice Clarke of engineering firm CR Clarke & Co. Panasonic staff from across the manufacturing centre then worked around the clock, in response to a Welsh Government request, to procure parts and produce the units for regulatory approval and use in clinical trials.

The prototype CPAP device.

The device has been given initial approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care that is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices used in the UK. Clinical trials are ongoing and the Panasonic facility is on standby to produce a 1,000 more devices if required.

The CPAP unit provides a controlled flow of positive pressure, highly oxygenated air to coronavirus patients, helping to improve their blood oxygen levels. The breathing aid can reduce the number of patients requiring invasive mechanical ventilation in Intensive Care Unit treatment.

Expertise from across the 400-strong staff at the Panasonic facility came together to assist in refinement of the design, procurement of parts and manufacturing. The team, from the Mobile Solutions Business, which produces rugged notebooks and tablets, and the Home Appliance Division, created the new production line for the CPAPs in just two days. The prototypes were delivered just three weeks after receiving the initial request for support.

“We reached out to the Welsh Government to see if we could use our skills and facilities to help in these difficult times and they responded with this request,” said Robert Blowers, Panasonic Home Appliance Division Director. “The team has worked public holidays and weekends to make it work and it was great to see how people from the different businesses across our very diverse site came together to answer the challenge. We are standing by to mass produce the devices but, of course, are hoping that they will never be required.”

Staff at the Panasonic facility have also been involved in a number of other initiatives to help the community during the coronavirus crisis. This included another request by the Welsh Government to carry out Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing and reporting on a new Oximeter developed by the University of South Wales to measure levels of oxygen in the blood. In addition, engineers have been using 3D printers to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the NHS, and the company donated Panasonic TOUGHBOOK mobile computing devices to help patients in isolation communicate with relatives.

The Panasonic Mobile Solutions Business at the site has also been supporting first responders and key workers across Europe with the priority repair and servicing of rugged Panasonic TOUGHBOOK mobile computing devices, which are used by healthcare workers and emergency services personnel carrying out their life-saving duties.

Commenting on the efforts of staff across the whole of the manufacturing facility over the past two months, Kevin Jones, Managing Director of the Panasonic Mobile Solutions Business division, said:

“Like everyone else, our staff were initially concerned about continuing to work during the coronavirus outbreak but they wanted to make a difference – both for their customers and the local community. We quickly agreed additional safety measures in line with Government advice and I’m incredibly proud of the team. They realise the customers they support are working on the frontline and they have a clear sense of purpose. Everyone wants to make a difference. They are all heroes in my eyes.”

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