Raglan designer’s ingenuity helps in the battle against Covid-19

Raglan man Nick Leigh is one of the design brains behind a project repurposing farming equipment into medical equipment used in the fight against Covid-19.

An industrial designer, Nick and plastics engineer Jeff Sharp have been hard at work designing and producing emergency ventilators using circuit boards from automated milking equipment.

Working from his Raglan home, Nick has worked on fine-tuning the componentry and moulds to create the portable ventilators at a fraction of the cost of a hospital ventilator.

“The ones they have at hospital are $100,000 each and this is going to be about $8000, so you can have ten sitting in the cupboard for the price of one, just in case (of emergencies like Covid-19).”

Jeff is the owner of plastics engineering firm ES Plastics and he stumbled upon the problem while chatting to his neighbours, both senior doctors at Waikato Hospital, about New Zealand’s response to the pandemic.

Around the world evidence of hospitals collapsing under the onslaught of Covid patients and the lack of ventilators to keep up with the demand was of prime concern to the men.

Thankfully this turned out not to be the case in New Zealand but their work has not been in vain as some of the ventilators are heading to Africa and they’ve had interest from South America and Asia.

The ventilators were designed with pandemic and disaster relief in mind, they are portable and can be used in makeshift hospitals.

Around 100 of the ventilators can be produced daily and they are also looking at selling ventilator kits into some countries that have some of the components readily available.

The project has recently received funding from the government’s Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund, with the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Megan Woods saying the project would open up export opportunities as well as having the potential to benefit our Pacific neighbours.

“It’s really nice to be involved in something that has a real world, immediate application.”

Nick has been able to enlist other locals to help on the project using a Raglan-based graphic designer and another helping out with French translation.

“It’s great that people have been able to drop what they are doing and do something to help during this time.”

Janine Jackson