Coventry’s Manufacturing Technology Centre develops new dental protection equipment

MTC – Halo[2]

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre has developed a new product to protect dentistry staff and patients against contaminated aerosol particles.

Since the start of the pandemic, dentistry has been severely impacted, with major implications to appointment and procedure times.

The MTC’s Business Launch Centre Director, Dean Baker, said: “The risk of COVID-19 transmission via airborne particles has resulted, in some cases, in appointment capacity reduced to 15-20 per cent versus pre-pandemic, due to the time required for equipment and room sanitisation and changing of PPE.

“Working with a number of dentist practices, we wanted to develop a solution that not only helped to maximise appointment time, but also protected staff and patients, as well as mitigated concerns regarding the safety of dentistry procedures in light of COVID-19.”

The project, which has been funded by the MTC, is a collaboration between BLC, the MTC’s Product Manufacturing Incubator (PMI) and the MTC’s design and simulation teams. It is also the latest in a series of projects led by PMI which have been focused on the launch of new medical devices.

With Halo, MTC engineers developed the high-volume extraction unit using simulation techniques, to allow for changes to the design of the device during the concept phase. A prototype was then produced using 3D printing.

Halo, the name given to the device which sits over the mouth during procedures, is designed to be comfortable for the patient. It is attached to a hose, which is connected to a pump that fits beneath or to the side of a dentist’s chair. Using suction, the aerosol particles are fed through a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration system and collected in a disposable bag within the pump; this is removed after every use using a handle, so staff do not come into contact with the bag. The Halo device has also been designed for single use.

Reiss Harvey, Advanced Research Engineer for the MTC’s Product Design Group, said: “We went through a number of design iterations when developing Halo, and so being able to simulate the device at each stage meant that we could adapt the specification more easily, and then measure the effect of design changes ahead of manufacturing the prototype.

“We also explored different forms of suction and worked closely with dentists to understand what would be required from this type of device to help futureproof it and safeguard against other airborne diseases.”

Halo is the latest in a series of MTC projects concerning the development of medical devices to help the fight against COVID-19. Last year, in partnership with Rolls-Royce and leading medical practitioners, the MTC developed aerosol generating procedure (AGP) shields to protect frontline NHS staff when carrying out intubation procedures for COVID-19 patients. A new face visor, designed using laser cutting technology, was also developed, and an open-source technical pack was made available for free download to manufacturers.