Jul 4, 2017

Technology which protects Formula One drivers in the event of a crash, has been used to create a safe environment for new-born babies needing emergency transportation.

Better known for its Formula One racing team, the advanced engineering arm of the Williams Group has designed and manufactured The Babypod 20 in collaboration with Advanced Healthcare Technology (AHT).

The hi-tech carbon fibre transport devices, which can withstand a 20 G-force crash, have been launched in Intensive Care Ambulances used at Great Ormond Street Hospital and run by the Children Acute Transport Service, who also advised on design requirements.

Transporting new-born infants requires a safe, secure and temperature regulated environment, which has previously required the use of heavy and cumbersome incubators. These devices not only require an electricity supply, which is not always readily available, but also dedicated vehicles costing health services more.

The Babypod 20 has been designed to provide the environment that a baby needs at a significantly reduced price of a standard transport incubator. Lightweight and easy to handle, Babypod 20 can attach to any transport stretcher whether on a trolley or in an ambulance, car or even helicopter.

Speaking about the project, Craig Wilson, Managing Director of WAE, commented: The parallels between a Formula One car and transport device for babies may not be immediately apparent, but both demand a lightweight and strong structure that keeps the occupant safe in the event of an accident, and can monitor vital signs whilst remaining easily transportable and accessible.

“We have taken the existing Babypod product and worked with AHT to create a device that is not only more compact and user-friendly but, crucially, can be scaled up in its production so that more hospitals can benefit from this Formula One-inspired technology.”

In 2015, AHT approached WAE to create a new variant of its Babypod product that would fully utilise Formula One-inspired design characteristics and materials. WAE has significantly changed the design to reduce the weight and improve the crash test results of the Babypod.

Furthermore, accessibility has been improved with a slide and tilt mechanism to give greater ease of access for hospital staff. New, sleek styling has also been employed by the team.

The manufacture of the Babypod 20 will take place at the Williams headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire and will utilise the same resources used to make the company’s Formula One cars each season. Crucially, Williams’ extensive experience in working with carbon fibre, and its strong supplier network, will allow a significant increase in the number of Babypod’s produced each year. This will mean that more hospitals and ultimately more new-borns will be able to benefit from this technology.

Mark Lait, the Design Director of Advanced Healthcare Technology, said: “Our focus over the last ten years has been to provide safe transport and occupancy devices for babies and small children. Assisting the talented teams of specialist Doctors, Nurses and Technicians to retrieve sick babies and transport them to the most suitable ‘centres of excellence’ for the life-saving treatment they require.

“As a UK company we are particularly pleased to have the opportunity to work with the designers and engineers at Williams, to develop this ‘next generation’ of BabyPods, and to harness their knowledge and skills to make this new model available. This design, with reduced weight and increased strength, has also delivered improved features of protection against vibration and noise and of course the dangers related to impact, which inevitably sometimes occur with medical vehicles traveling at speed.”

Eithne Polke, Operational Manager/Retrieval Coordinator for Children’s Acute Transport Service (CATS), has been part of the team working with Babypod 20 at Great Ormond Street Hospital. When asked about the Babypod, she said: “The CATS team control around 50% of London’s emergency movements, so fast and effective transportation in these situations is vitally important to saving lives.

“The new Babypod has an adapted design that allows for greater flexibility and manoeuvrability when moving critically ill infants from one mode of transport to another. Not only is the environment controlled at a constant temperature, but the visual opportunity afforded by the redesigned cover allows the baby to be constantly monitored and for better accessibility. Overall, we’re delighted with the updated Babypod design and safety features and believe it has made a big difference to our transportation processes.”

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