Small UK business develops new equipment for producing 10,000 Covid-19 testing swabs per hour
EASTLEIGH, Hampshire, UK; September 2020 – A tiny UK-based business has designed, built and begun exporting innovative production equipment capable of producing up to 10,000 Covid-19 medical testing swabs per hour.
In February this year, Andrew Campbell, managing director and owner of Campbell Coutts Ltd discovered that the delays in Covid-19 testing all over the world were partly caused by a shortage of the particular “flocked” swabs required to collect the biological specimens, with demand far outstripping the production capacity of the few established manufacturers and no flocked swab production capability in the UK. With Andrew’s business specialising in production of flocking equipment, he knew he had to act fast and soon set about designing new machines for the rapid production of swabs suitable for collecting samples for Coronavirus testing.
Andrew, an engineer, explained, “My small team of three colleagues and myself worked flat out, within the social distancing constraints and other limitations of lock-down, and within eight weeks we had built and tested a prototype and orders were coming in from customers around the world. It was a very challenging, complex project, partly because we knew we had to produce the equipment very quickly to help meet the global need for swabs. Another hurdle was the shortage of the polycarbonate sheeting needed to enclose parts of the equipment as the demand for protective, perspex screens being used in public environments had used up all the stock in the UK!”
To assist with accelerating the design and development, the company were awarded a government grant via Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency, as part of a competition specifically set up to fast-track the development of innovations borne out of the coronavirus crisis and to help build future resilience.
Small and large versions of the machinery have already been purchased by eager customers in Israel, South Africa, Australia, Denmark and China.
The process wasn’t without challenges but has been a rewarding and profitable venture nevertheless says Andrew.
“The equipment had to be suitable for use in a “clean room” sterile environment, which was a particular challenge, especially when dealing with millions of minute nylon fibres flying around. I’m really delighted that all our hard work has paid off and that we are making a positive contribution to the global fight against Coronavirus”.
The company is the UK’s longest established and largest supplier of flocking equipment and consumables and one of just a handful of businesses worldwide with the expertise and capability to design and produce electrostatic flocking equipment for large-scale production of a variety of flocked products and components.