A team at the Faculty of Engineering from the North-West University (NWU), in collaboration with other experts involved in this unsettling battle, is rising to the challenge to support our government in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the South African Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, South Africa has an already strained healthcare system, and if we do not take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously, the system will be overburdened. South Africa does not have enough medical supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE) to protect the nation and the healthcare workers. Products that are in high demand include masks, test kits, hand sanitisers, invasive ventilators, non-invasive ventilators, hospital beds and linen.

The NWU team and its collaborators have already developed products to relieve the healthcare system and the healthcare workers who are in the front line. Various officials in the Potchefstroom healthcare system have requested face shields, as there is a shortage already. The NWU is therefore currently manufacturing and distributing face shields free of charge to health workers in the area around Potchefstroom.

There are not enough ventilators available in hospitals or from any supplier for all the potential patients who will be struck by the virus. Our group, in active collaboration with CUT, is working tirelessly to manufacture and distribute these supplies to clinics and hospitals. The main project of the team is to reverse-engineer the BIRD Mark 7 or 8 mechanical respirator to allow it to be used as an emergency ventilator.

The team chose this particular device due to its ability to work without electricity, since it is powered by air, a characteristic that is crucial in South Africa. The aim is to produce an open-source 3D-printable version of the BIRD mechanical ventilator. The team will also need to update some parts to conform to the current minimum specifications listed by the World Health Organisation.

For more information about the face shields please contact Ms Vanda Pretorius

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