University expertise sees lifesaving ventilator prototype secure state backing
Each year the University watches with pride as our talented graduates trade the campus for new workplaces, set to make their mark on the world and in their communities. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of almost 30 Hunter-based alumni and staff have done just that – developing one of two successful ventilator prototypes selected by the State government for pre-production.
Project lead, Conjoint Senior Fellow and Ampcontrol Group Manager Engineering, Dr Ian Webster, said the success of the project relied on Ampcontrol’s strong connections with the University of Newcastle.
“When we kicked off this project, we were asked to produce 600 ventilators in 28 days. My relationship with the Faculty of Engineering meant I could immediately reach out to Brett Ninness, as I knew the expertise and facilities housed at the University would be hugely beneficial to the project,” Dr Webster said.
“Since 2004, we’ve had a unique partnership with the University via our joint venture ResTech, which has created a direct path for students to complete placements and do research work with Ampcontrol.
“As a result of the strong engineering alumni network in the Hunter region, around 60 per cent of our ventilator prototype team are alumni. Safearth, and NewieVentures – both Hunter-based leading engineering companies with strong alumni ties – also came on board as collaborative partners.
"We know University of Newcastle graduates have a unique set of skills which make them ideal candidates for the work we do. I’m so proud of the team who are working tirelessly to ensure our clinicians have the lifesaving equipment they need.”
Project team Chris Bird (Ampcontrol), Steve Palmer (Safearth), Paul Reynolds (Ampcontrol), Ian Webster (Ampcontrol & UON), Darryl Peacock (Ampcontrol), Steve Mitchell (Ampcontrol), Clint Lawrence (Ampcontrol), Thomas Steigler (Ampcontrol), George Bouras (Ampcontrol)
The ventilator prototype, known as Anemoi, will now move into production of 10 units for further testing. If the model is successful in completing the pre-production phase, full production would be done in NSW supporting the local industry, the local economy, and jobs.
“The prototype is likely to become a new manufacturing product, diversifying our business and supporting regional development,” Dr Webster said.
To quickly accelerate their knowledge of ventilator systems, the Ampcontrol team engaged with the University to guide solutions and minimise clinical and deployment risks.
Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Brett Ninness, said our COVID-19 response was a powerful example of collaborating across STEM disciplines.
“COVID-19 presented a situation where people skilled across health, science, engineering, design and commercialisation needed to come together to rapidly collaborate to solve imperative global issues. We were part of that solution, so this is a proud moment for us all to celebrate,” Professor Ninness said.
“Our strong industry connections have proven invaluable in ensuring our people are embedded in the local response to COVID-19 and our graduates remain highly sought after for their expertise.”
“This is another example of the power of the University of Newcastle, local business and government partners coming together to demonstrate leadership on important issues in our region and beyond.”
NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian said that with the easing of restrictions there could be a rise in COVID-19 infections, in which case it’s imperative for hospitals to have all the equipment they need. Read Premiere Berejiklian’s announcement here.
This initiative follows the supply of more than 2000 face shields to frontline heath workers – a project led by our Centre for Organic Electronics (COE).
University of Newcastle alumni involved in Ampcontrol’s ventilator project:
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Technology Officer
Senior Management Accountant
Group Manager Strategy
Group Engineering Manager
Control Systems Engineer
Head of Technology
Marketing and Media Liaison
Industrial Design R&D Engineer
Undergraduate R&D Engineer
Senior R&D Engineer
R&D Product Development Manager
General Manager ResTech