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Dyson has announced it will develop a new type of medical ventilator for NHS (bbc.com)
108 points by hhs 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments

> Some industry insiders have suggested that Dyson's approach to create a new model will take too long.

You don't say. You can't just turn a vacuum cleaner into a ventilator by setting it to Blow instead of Suck. Medical devices take a very long time to develop, certify, build, release and develop training for because they're medical devices. The rule of thumb for consumer-grade hardware is it takes a minimum of one year from ideation to first delivery.

You want new ones fast, you get the manufacturers who make existing ones make more of them. The problem isn't that we're out of ventilator designs, it's that we're out of physical ventilators.

This feels like Elon's child-rescue submarine, and at least as far as COVID-19 it's likely to save exactly the same number of people.

> This feels like Elon's child-rescue submarine, and at least as far as COVID-19 it's likely to save exactly the same number of people.

Speaking of Elon Musk, his initial plans from a few days ago to also produce some in-house has morphed into the saner goal of acquiring 1000+ units from China, which apparently have already arrived in LA: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-24/californi...

Although buying existing ones is zero-sum: assuming the worldwide demand exceeds supply and, as such, those ventilators would have been sold anyway, his buying of those ventilators just swapped the shortage problem to a different group of patients.

Elon probably just went on Alibaba and bought some with his credit card.

It was probably a little more involved than that, but not by much. The real story is that asinine regulations and bureaucracy aren't letting hospital administrators do the same!

There is a growing consensus that constant positive pressure is what many patients need: https://emcrit.org/ibcc/covid19/

Developing a closed mask that doesn't contaminate everyone around them might do much good.

So essentially a CPAP machine.

CPAPs i believe have been ruled out as they vent exhalations indiscriminately, spreading the virus throughout the space.

Shouldn’t that be fine for at-home recovery though?

Not in the health field, but the rapid innovation on the front lines is breathtaking. There are groups of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists communicating on Twitter solving these problems in real time. It's really inspiring!

Medicine has often throughout history seen advancement through forced innovation on the battlefield.

So does a sick person not on a ventilator though, and there are many more of them.

Could put a filter on the exhalation port, I believe some of them have one.

that doesn't sound like a terribly hard problem to solve.

Or at least useful in limited situations, e.g. at-home care where the carer has already been infected. Situations like that might not be common now, but give it a few months.

I have to say, one of the things that is driving me mad these days is the level of ignorance evidenced by both popular and media conversations about all of this stuff.

I mean, are we watching too many science fiction movies?

Have we lost any connection to what it actually takes to make things?

With over thirty years in technology and manufacturing I would not touch the rapid development of a ventilator with a ten foot pole. As you correctly state, designing such devices takes years. And, beyond that, it takes decades of accumulated experience to inform the decisions and choices made during the design of any modern device. And then there's the years of testing, qualification and supply chain engineering.

No, the only way to make ventilators is to make more of an already proven design under the supervision of the companies already making them. In other words, expand their production capacity by retooling already capable manufacturing environments.

Watching the White House press briefings I can't help but feel that reporters must think Trump is Captain Picard who, armed with advanced replicators, can replicate mass quantities of anything within days. Oh, yes, and he must be Superman too.

In real life things take time. And if your industrial base has been almost completely off-shored, it takes even longer. If it's even possible at all.

I'm right there with you, probably has to do with many of them having never seen a manufacturing facility. But they do know how to write "Those jobs are never coming back!"

I had someone call me to ask if we could use our 3D print farm, industrial (not hobby) CNC equipment and surface mount line to make "a low cost ventilator they designed over the weekend". I pretty much read the guy the riot act and told him to stop fucking around with shit he isn't even remotely equipped to understand and go find some other way to help.

Yeah, I've lost a lot of tolerance for this kind of stuff during the last few weeks. We are being treated to an amazing display of the Dunning-Kruger effect on a daily basis.

I mean, I just heard the media is on a war path blaming Trump for some guy in Arizona who "died after taking Chloroquine, the drug the President is pushing". Turns out nobody did their research and this guy decided to take a chemical used to clean fish tanks. Never mind that there was no doctor involved at all. Fish tank cleaner...and somehow our President is culpable?

We are witnessing ignorance being elevated to a virtue.

Oh they knew, they just didn't want to mention that he straight up drank the aquarium cleaner and instead said "the chemical he ingested is also used in aquarium cleaners."

I usually have little patience for people who have no idea what the hell they're talking about, but I've been trying to give the benefit of the doubt since a lot of these people are probably extremely panicked and genuinely trying to help. Some people though... need an ass-kicking.

I agree, panic can bring out irrational thinking. Maybe I am over-reacting because there seems to be so much of it going around.

I did the math on COVID-19 back in early February and quickly recognized this was not going to be "just the flu". I made it a point to warn lots of people to get ready, buy supplies, etc. The number of people who laughed at me with the now familiar "just the flu" was alarming.

A good deal of my family members and friends who understand I am not an alarmist and don't say that kind of stuff lightly took my advice. I can't tell you how many calls I got over the last couple of weeks from them thanking me for the advance notice. None of them had to join the desperation and frenzy at our supermarkets. Everyone got ready for it back in February.

In the meantime I am trying to put hardware on the moon. It seems like such a distant idea given what's going on. My guess is Artemis is likely to suffer delays due to this pandemic and the funds we'll need to burn to keep afloat.

I was under the impression that the NHS had been sourcing ventilators from a French manufacturer, but France decided to nationalize that manufacturer and stop exports.

Although I do wonder how much of a home-built solution will be "designed" versus, say "jury-rigged".

When you need more than the existing manufacturers can produce, and the alternative (Italy) is to let them die in a hallway, then you might be willing to try anything. If it was my life I’d prefer the Dyson over nothing.

So take the design from one existing company and ramp the manufacture. The alternative isn't sit down with a blank sheet of paper and some pencils and see what you can knock out in a couple of weeks and shove into people without going through the appropriate testing and certification procedures.

The problem isn't a lack of ventilator designs.

Is that not what all of the non-ventilator companies are doing? I mean that seems like the obvious choice.

How can Dyson ramp up ventilator production? Their factories are not set up to manufacture ventilators with completely different materials or tooling. Dyson not only has production capacity for hundreds of thousands of vacuum cleaners, but probably has tens of thousands already in stock in warehouses and at retailers. If they can find a way to use them to help patients, those patients can get that help TOMORROW. They absolutely cannot do that with ventilators.

My lord, you can't use a vacuum cleaner to help patients that need ventilators except by removing dirt from their floors.

Well then Dyson can't help, that's fine. But it doesn't harm anyone but them to try, so they seem to be doing the right thing in trying.

Well, you might have nothing anyway, if it takes twice as long for Dyson to produce anything by starting from scratch rather than using an existing design.

I guess nobody should stop him trying to make some of these at a crash pace, because there's a nonzero chance they might work out, but it does seem unlikely.

That would be Spain, not Italy.

Yes. This. Incredibly desperate times here.

If it's that desperate force companies to make them. Don't pin your hopes and dreams on a fantasy that you can build a large-scale medical device in two weeks.

How can you expect that if they're at max capacity? I guess the government could throw major bucks at it.

The problem isn't that there is a lack of ventilator designs it's that there's a lack of physical ventilators which means it's a manufacturing/supply chain/logistics problem not an R&D problem. That won't be solved with yet another design.

Ramping up a vacuum cleaner factory to produce ventilators will take much longer than trying to find a design that can turn a vacuum cleaner into a ventilator. What is solved with a novel design is the repurposing of a product that a factory already has the ability to produce.

This doesn't even pass the sniff test. If Dyson can produce an 80% effective version they obviously should.

No, they shouldn't because an 80% effective ventilator might kill someone when a company that knows how to make ventilators could just produce a 100% effective one.

This is the problem with treating everyone like a child. If I am dying of corona, and there are no more ventilators, I would like to be offered one that Dyson made out of cardboard, sticky tape, string, and wood glue so I can decide for myself if I want it.

The potential risks of a medical device need to be weighed against the risks of not having it. Safety testing is less important when treating dying patients who have no other options.

That may be the least coherent plan I've ever heard. If I offered you a leaf blower taped to a sack, that would absolutely make the situation worse. If you need a ventilator you're not in a position to make decisions because you need a ventilator. Come on, this is a fantasy and I think you know that.

If you're lying there, gasping for air, that's not the time for the nurse to wander by and ask if you liked the Dyson BlowMaster 8000 or the Siemens 300A Servo Ventilator, and to explain to you the pros and cons.

What you need is a proper, certified ventilator you can get by ramping production of existing ventilators, not starting over with some bits of sticky tape and string. You can force companies, in an emergency to produce them [1]. That's the only sane plan in an actual emergency.

Let's briefly break down the "treat like a child" bit. A child is someone who's not capable of making decisions. Neither is someone who needs a ventilator.

> Safety testing is less important when treating dying patients who have no other options.

Safety testing is more important because sometimes applying a useless device will do more harm than doing literally nothing. Something is not always better than nothing. How else can we, to your point, weigh the risks of having it vs not having it if we don't evaluate them?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_Production_Act_of_1950

That's a strawman if I ever saw one.

And if they can't make enough, waiting for a ventilator that never comes will 100% kill someone

That doesn't necessarily follow.

I assume the term "need a ventilator" does not mean they have 100% chance of dying without a ventilator. Very few things in life are 100% certain. I imagine its more like, you have a 90% chance of dying without this, and a 10% chance of living (Numbers totally made up).

Its also not the case that a faulty ventilator might be worth 80% of a real ventilator. It may very well be 0%, it might be -20%. If the ventilator is worthless, well there are some strong ethical conundrums of selling worthless cures to desperate people who will pay anything for the slightest hope of surviving. But that's if its worthless, its entirely imaginable that a faulty one reduces patients chances relative to no ventilator. Doing nothing and letting the body do its best, might have better outcomes then doing some sort of medical intervention incorrectly.

If you need a ventilator, it's because your body cannot breathe without assistance. Many ventilators require intubation, which is an extremely invasive procedure. Ventilators don't boost chances, they are used to save you from dying, like a defibrillator and other forms of life support. Your assumption is essentially wrong.

"extremely invasive" isn't really a precise term, and sounds untrue here. It's a routine procedure, not considered dangerous.

The child rescue submarine was not used for the rescue, but it wasn't a bad thing that it could have served as a backup plan.

Elon Musk's comments were unforgivable, though.

The descriptions I've read of the cave suggest that it wouldn't have worked as a backup anyway- a human can wriggle or be pulled through, but a pod large enough to hold a human would be too big and inflexible. It would have snagged on something, and then what?

> ...and then what?

Send in more and more subs.


What comments?

Look up “pedo guy” the story is too long and crazy to get into here haha

> Dyson said it had been working with The Technology Partnership, a medical company based in Cambridge, to develop a "meaningful and timely response".

Maybe a new design can be built faster if it’s from the ground up. This can happen concurrently with ramping up existing manufacturing of vents.

Reinvent the ventilator and have one sitting in a hospital in 14 days with no teething issues on production, training, deployment, maintenance?

Exactly. Anyone who has worked in medical devices knows this is impossible. Saying that you will prepare one as part of a timely response is such nonsense that I don't know what part to start looking at.

It only would make sense if we're still facing these issues in, say, 8 months. Which is still wildly optimistic for proper design etc of such a device, and even if possible that same time frame should absolutely allow existing manufacturers to scale production.

The original ventilator was very janky. It did work!

For polio. That's a very different problem.

The positive pressure ones anesticists developed were also really janky. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6...

Unfortunately I think Dyson is a blowhard (sorry about pun) and self promoter. This hack of a Decathlon Scuba mask is the sort of thing these manufacturers should be presenting to the world rather than their endless brand promotion. https://www.isinnova.it/easy-covid19-eng/

Anyone seen any info on the Dyson AirBlades used for hand-drying in public restrooms? They are very effective at drying , but flick a lot of water up and onto the unit. I guess if everyone has properly washed their hands the WHO way, the rinse water should be safe, but I'm still wondering whether you are risking getting virus from the previous possibly infected person who also doesn't know the words to Happy Birthday.

I hate those god-awful AirBlade dryers. I have long fingers and it is almost impossible to dry my hands without that disgusting pool of water flicking up onto the tips of my fingers. Curl your fingers you say? Not possible due to how narrow the gap is without almost always making contact with the sides of the unit.

Terrible machines.

Totally agreed. Can't get my hands in and out of them without brushing the sides. It's not easy to take something terrible (a hand dryer) and make it worse.

Since this pandemic, I've just stopped using them altogether.

They have an alternative version that solves this issue. I'm not sure if this is a successor or alt product though. https://www.dyson.com.au/hand-dryers/airblade-v.aspx

Still looks like a great way to aerosolize the content of people's insufficiently washed hands. Yeesh.

It is surprising this wasn't realized when the machine was being developed. Contacting the pool of water at the bottom, or the sides of the drier, seems reasonably unhygienic.

Design is fundamentally iterative. It’s easy to see the right design in hindsight, but it takes raw numbers to get there: you have to throw away a certain number of designs to get to the right one.

And throwing away designs costs money. That’s why often it’s not until v2 or v3 of a product that they hit the right design. You often need the revenue from v1 and v2 to pay for more thrown away designs.

The world is designed for short people with short parts. Fingers are not the only problem.

Terrible machines before the pandemic; an order of magnitude more terrible during it.

Dyson makes a $1500 integrated faucet that incorporates a hand-dryer.


Somehow none of the geniuses in the design world have criticised that the 331mph Air Blade dryer, when pointed at a concave surface, i.e. the sink, would spit things right back in the opposite direction.

I've used this faucet/dryer while transiting through Reykjavik and you can see the remaining soap lather blown from the sink drain up over the counter and onto my shirt (and everywhere else).

It's an expensively flawed idea.

I too was first introduced to those things flying through Reykjavik, and since then I've met them in a few office bathrooms.

They are the absolute worst. How anyone thought it was a good idea is beyond me.

Same here, in an office in Amsterdam. The sink hadn't fully drained when I moved my hand beneath the sensor inadvertently. Result: soapy water everywhere, including the floor and my clothes.

I hope that one of the outcomes of this crisis is we take a proper evidence-led approach towards building and design standards to reduce the spread of infectious disease.

For all new buildings or products, any surface which is touched by hundreds of people each day needs to be redesigned to be contactless or to use materials that minimize transmission; products like hand dryers should pass standards that measure whether they spread bacteria or viruses; buildings and public transportation (buses, trains and planes) need to use HEPA filters to reduce airborne transmission risks, and to filter out air pollution; and sinks for hand washing need to become a standard feature at office receptions or entrances/exits.

We should also be able to reduce the normally accepted steady state of deaths, ill health and economic impacts from flu and other unnecessary sickness.

But this is going to be more and more necessary as global disease transmission becomes easier. It could be a new strain of flu or a drug resistant TB next year. There has to be defence in depth and in advance, not just hoping always for a magic fix after the problem has occurred.

Someone needs to socialize the idea that patina on bronze, brass and silver is a good thing. Frankly I'm a little surprised the hipsters didn't latch onto it right from the beginning.

It turns out that copper can not only kill bacteria but also degrades naked dna/rna strands, preventing gene transfer between species. Problem is, the last time we were still using brass a lot, it was all lacquered in plastic.

Pretty much all hand dryers spread microbes like you wouldn't believe. I've taken to just letting my hands air dry, but I'm in a very dry climate where that happens very quickly.

There was a study saying it blows crap all over you. I close my eyes when ever I use it now to prevent a certain virus from getting into my eyes


Although, I imagine the liberal application of far-UVC lighting for free air antiseptic purposes in the loo might mitigate the issue to an extent.

Far UVC light (207–222 nm) deactivates pathogens without damage to skin and eye cells.


It’s any recommended consumer lamp for out there ?

I couldn’t find one myself, so I’m working to have one manufactured in Shenzhen.

bacteria only, thankfully.

There's a one-sided version I saw recently (internet says the Airblade V), which seems to be less of a game of Operation and actually mostly seemed to work.

But to your point, the intake vents are mounted very low on the side, and I think I'd feel a lot better about recirculation if the intakes were farther above the outlets.

I've mentioned it before, but there is already an American company that makes a simplified and hardened version of a ventilator that is aimed at meeting surge demand during a pandemic.


They have already gone through the regulatory approval process and the cheapest model was retailing at about $3,000 and not the $50,000 number Ive seen tossed about for models with all the modern bells and whistles.

When you need to ramp up production quickly, simpler is better.

Reading that page I'm actually astounded we don't have 100,000 of them stockpiled around the country.

There is a very dark joke in here somewhere given how well Dyson airblades spread bacteria and other crap around.

I submitted a support question to them about the safety of their airblades, and they never responded.

How much does that cost? /j

But seriously, good to see so many companies stepping up to just get things done, and to see (more or less) regulations being set aside or handled speedily.

Lol... just copycat the fastest and cheapest approved model for the high numbers you need? Dyson doing a Dyson is soooo smug or exceptionalist again. Sigh

To be fair, a lot of these companies trying to switch manufacturing to help with the COVID-19 epidemic are hamstrung by the same intellectual and copyright laws they normally would.

The only two sane approaches would be that copyright owners provide temporary, free licenses to other manufacturers (heck, even make the government pay a royalty for each unit) or the government to force the companies to provide the designs.

Neither option would be favored by either UK or US right now, because the cult of free enterprise is more important than human loss.

Boris could just say they are not going to enforce copyright etc during the crisis.

He could, but he won't. This is Boris 'we need to leave the EU because too much government' Johnson.

Why would it be easier/faster for a company to make their own design than for existing manufacturers to scale up production? Wouldn't it make more sense to throw resources at scaling existing production than new designs which would, themselves, then need to have production scaled up anyway?

I'm reading the comments and people are questioning the ability to get them done in 14 days or whichever absurdly short space of time you'd want to pick.

There is no evidence this pandemic will be over at any time in the near or long term future, just a thus far folorn hope. For all we know it will persist for a couple of waves of death, then as a mutation, year on year. The fragility of our health systems has been exposed and the ability of manufacturers to ramp up production, or even share designs[0] so they can be fixed in the meantime, has also been show to be lacking so some competition in the space to

a) produce more ventilators

b) hopefully produce better ventilators

c) make them cheaper

cannot be a bad thing. The chances of having an antiviral or vaccine before Dyson completes a viable ventilator are also pie in the sky, so pick your horse and back it, it's all going to be too late for too many.

[0] Italians Found Way to 3-D Print Key Ventilator Piece for $1 to Help Battle Coronavirus—So the Company With the Patent Is Threatening to Sue https://citizentruth.org/italians-found-way-to-3-d-print-key...

And I suppose it "doesn't lose breathing" ? Sorry I had to ...

This title is misleading, first line of article says: "Dyson has announced it will develop a new type of medical ventilator".


Once this pandemic is past, I hope industries will retool the same way in developing decarbonizing technologies.

Hoping it is not as loud as their vacuum cleaners, hand dryers ;)

Why can't they copy the old Bird ventilator or similar?

Only $600 per mask!

Oh. That Dyson.

Was not a fan until I bought their V10 vac. It is quite amazing at cleaning, performing much (much) better than any other vac I have ever owned although with the downside of an insufficient battery.

Maybe they've improved but my DC59 seems to have many design flaws.

Hair and dust gets stuck in the weirdest places, requiring a screwdriver to clean properly (or the power just cuts off due to blockages). The connection between the motorised head, tube, and the main body also seems to be insecure. Normal forward and back motion will interrupt the connection and it stops spinning. For such an expensive product, I'm not happy with the replacement parts I've had to buy for that issue.

I've had a refurb V7 for a couple of years now, and never had any of your problems. Maybe the DC59 suffers from V1 types of problems?

I chose the V7 because it was the cheapest / oldest model with the new ejection mechanism.

It could be, or maybe we just had bad luck too.

I don't think the design of the motorised head was good at all, since as I said I found hair and dust got through the cracks into the housing and I needed star shaped screwdrivers to get in there and clean it.

And the main body has a flimsy flap that opens/closes with airflow, but it gets stuck very easily with our dust situation. So I have to pick at it down the tube (awkward), unscrew it, or hope running water flushes it (tends to just consolidate the dust into paste). If the flap stops moving the motor cuts off every few seconds.

Overall it was great for a year or two but for the price (and based on our consumer laws here in AU) I'd expect 5-10 years of service for such a vacuum cleaner. It now needs a lot of TLC and cleaning compared to our bagged Miele roller.

Interesting. I have had my V10 for about 16 months and, short-battery life aside, it has been flawless. I also have a bagged Miele and the Dyson vacuums circles around it, extracting far more dirt from carpeting. Night and day difference. I will say the general build quality of the Miele seems superior in the classic sense but I think I'd have to use it 5X as much as the Dyson for the same results.

Yeah I'm willing to accept they improved over the years, I'm just reticent on getting another based on experience.

We use our Miele cat&dog model less than we should, but when we do it's noticeably stronger. Cord & bag is just inconvenient after you get used to the Dyson for daily touch ups (I swear my dog puts 90% of his calories into hair production).

I agree. The real win is that it’s so light and convenient that you just end up vacuuming more frequently or doing spot cleaning when you notice something. It ends up being a difference in kind rather than degree.

I have a V7 and it’s excellent. Really well thought out. Feels a little like if Apple made a vacuum cleaner.

Their products are also built like a tank.

I've gotten 20 years of use out of their original upright vacuum model so far.

I have a 2017 Cinetic Big Ball, and one of the wheels just broke off after two months. I didn't bother to replace it because it's only a mild inconvenience (it just requires slightly more force to pull it around) and I'm lazy af.

idk about the newer designs. I'm using a roughly 8 year old DC39 and it has been to the repair center multiple times for replacement motors and other parts. The plastic attachments are failing now so I'm not sure how much longer this vac will last.

I heard on a major news outlet, "...why are private companies such as Tesla and Elon Musk able to provide ventilators faster than the US government?"

This should be obvious, private companies don't have red-tape, private companies for the most part have better talent, and private companies work at a much higher throughput and level of efficiency. I've stated all along the solutions to this crisis are going to come from US companies for the most part, not from government (excluding capital stimulus). For this reason, we should all be supporting a fiscal package that stimulates business and corporations to get out of this.

What do you think red tape is?

And why do you think it applies to government workers but not private workers?

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