A short while ago, a client asked us for a rush order of ESD bench matting because they were taking up the Ventilator Challenge. Here’s the story of why this particular order was so important.

When the COVID-19 lockdown first happened, it marked a difficult time for several businesses that had to shut shop, while others managed to continue with business as usual by working remotely. Some had to adapt and alter their offerings. However, a small number of companies were called upon to assist the Government in the fight against Coronavirus.

Our clients, Surface Technology International (STI), was one such company.

STI provides full end-to-end engineering services, creating and producing electronics solutions for a range of industries. So, how can an electronics company help against COVID-19?

By taking part in the Ventilator Challenge.


STI takes part in the Ventilator Challenge UK

What is the Ventilator Challenge?

The Ventilator Challenge was an initiative by the UK government to meet the demands for ventilators for those critically affected by COVID-19.

As you may be aware, COVID-19 is a flu-like disease that affects the lungs of the worst-affected. These patients need access to ventilators to maintain the proper oxygen levels in their bodies.

The Problem

At the time, the National Health Service (NHS) had only 5,900 ventilators, but the projected requirement for a worst-case scenario was around 20,000 more than that number. Whilst social distancing measures were designed to flatten the curve and keep our essential workers safe, they didn’t help the ventilator shortage.

To make matters worse, the UK had no local manufacturing facilities for ICU ventilators. That was a problem as all overseas suppliers were already trying to meet global demand.

The Solution

To ensure that the health service had these critical pieces of equipment, the Government formally asked the British industry to help. Over 100 UK manufacturers received a formal briefing. Even though none of them had ever produced ventilators, they could adapt their production lines for this task.

Within three days, nine UK companies came together to form the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium and more joined over time. They took on the challenge of building 20,000 ventilators, a number that would typically have taken 20 years to produce, in 21 weeks.

What makes this consortium especially inspiring is the fact that most of the companies that took part were industry rivals. However, for this task, they came together, sharing information and technology freely.

And, we are proud to say our client was one of them.

How Did We Help STI in the Ventilator Challenge?

We provided them with rolls of ESD bench matting to prevent static damage.

In electronics manufacturing, one of the biggest ‘killers’ is electrostatic discharge (ESD).

Electrostatic discharge between tool and electronic componentWhat is ESD?

ESD, or static, is a slow build-up of charge in a person’s body, clothes and the equipment they handle, caused by repeated friction. This charge then rapidly transfers to any object they come in contact with in the form of a small spark.

You may have felt a slight jolt caused by static when you touched anything metallic on a dry day. For us and most of the objects we end up ‘jolting’, the mild shock isn’t a problem. However, for some small electronic components, ESD can mean a death sentence.

Since these tiny components are also quite expensive, losing many of them to static damage can add up to significant losses for the company. That is where anti-static equipment, like ESD matting, can help.

STI for ESD Matting

As a company well-versed in the problems of manufacturing electronic equipment, STI realised they would need to protect the ventilator components. However, to fulfil a challenge that required them to hire 70 extra people, their existing stock of ESD matting was just not enough.

That’s why they contacted us.

Since time was of the essence (20 years of production in 12 weeks!), we rushed the order to them within hours of them getting in touch.

In the end, their effort was recognised by their local MP, and we were pleased to see our matting featured in pictures of their setup, demonstrating that every small bit counts towards the greater goal.

The letter of appreciation they send us was just the cherry on top.

If you would like to protect your manufacturing of electronics from harmful fumes and dust or ESD, take a look at our product range. If you’re not sure about the best solutions for your needs, get in touch with us. We’d be happy to talk things through with you!

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