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Defy production of ventilators a global engineering feat

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Mechanical ventilators produced by South African engineers for consumer goods manufacturer Defy, have received the Royal Academy of Engineering’s President’s Special Award for Pandemic Service.

Consumer goods manufacturer Defy has garnered international recognition for its role in a groundbreaking project to produce innovative life-saving ventilators. Designed and manufactured by South African engineers, it’s the first intensive care quality ventilator to be manufactured in Africa.

Recently, the University of Cambridge Open Ventilator System Initiative team, supported by Europe’s leading consumer durables company Arçelik, with its subsidiaries Beko in the UK and Defy in South Africa, received the Royal Academy of Engineering’s President’s Special Award for Pandemic Service, as a result of their efforts in manufacturing mechanical ventilators for developing countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evren Albaş, CEO of Defy Appliances, says that the initiative brings together the extensive research, design, manufacturing and testing capabilities to mass produce the cost-effective, full-function mechanical ventilators – named Impilo – at Defy’s Jacobs factory in KwaZulu-Natal. The high-performance mechanical ventilator has since become the first intensive-care quality ventilator to be manufactured on the African continent. “Impilo means ‘life’ in Zulu and Xhosa, which we think is a fitting name for a device that so many people depend on right now for their survival,” says Albaş.

He explains that the mechanical ventilator units were developed through Defy’s cooperation with the University of Cambridge, local partners Beko in the UK and Arçelik in Turkey. “Its success depended in no small part on the innovative design and engineering capabilities that we have at our disposal in South Africa – both within our own company as well as South Africa’s premier producer of landward defence solutions, Denel Land Systems, with whom we were able to collaborate.”

Albaş notes that the manufacturing of these ventilators in Defy’s facility in South Africa is also being supported by 17 local suppliers – each responsible for various device components. “Defy has a 115-year history and heritage in South Africa. As part of our role in the community, it’s important to support our country when it needs it most. Our biggest goal here is to produce life-saving equipment that can be used to help treat as many COVID-19 patients as possible. At the same time, we are also constantly looking for ways to create more jobs and provide further relief with this initiative,” Albas concludes.

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