Our No 8 wire approach to fixing things with whatever is at hand is well and truly alive and kicking.
When global supplies of ventilators to help those with Covid-19 breathe were urgently needed, New Zealand's effort was typical nimble.
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Hamilton-based ES Plastics is aiming to pump out 100 units of a prototype per day after managing director Jeff Sharp managed to develop and manufacture his machine, the RESPirator, within a week. The RESPirator design, boosted with a $457,000 Government grant, is based on an old-style pneumatic ventilator that was used in Waikato Hospital until around 2008.
Meanwhile, a grant of $150,000 has gone to another ventilator project with the potential to double capacity in intensive-care units, led by the University of Canterbury's Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase. Using used mechatronics and modern manufacturing such as3D printing, it could quite quickly provide mechanical ventilation to up to 460 patients.
Up at the University of Auckland a scientist is working on a way for doctors to better monitor the lung function of patients hooked up to the machines. Dr Haribalan Kumar, of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and colleagues Professor Merryn Tawhai and Dr Alys Clark have been working on imaging of the lungs inside the chest wall, by measuring signals from a belt of electrodes placed around the chest.
ESR scientists have also been busy sequencing virus genomes at incredibly fast rates – typically within 48 hours – with help from hand-held technology designed for swift processing.
A year-long ESR and Otago University collaboration will generate virus genomes from every Covid-19 case in the country. Eventually, this could give an accurate picture of where the virus came from and a timeline of its spread, quick enough to assist with quarantine decisions.
Ubiquitome's Liberty 16 device is currently being developed to test travellers at check-in and have a result back before they board a plane - an exciting prospect for the opening of borders.
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Of course, New Zealanders are also deep in the work to find a vaccine. If anyone can do it, you'd want to back the Kiwis.