Racing to save lives from Vancouver to the UK

Vancouver manufacturer US Digital sends 5,000 encoders overseas to be used in ventilators for COVID-19 patients  

VANCOUVER  — A Vancouver manufacturing company is working with a group of Formula 1 (F1) racing teams in the United Kingdom to battle the coronavirus. It’s awesome, and it involves science.

Vancouver-based U.S. Digital (USD) invents and designs encoders for all manner of motion and device control applications. Project Pitlane is a conglomerate of the UK’s seven biggest F1 teams and together they hired USD to build some 5,000 encoders.

USD crew member Nick is seen here applying heat shrink tubing to cable at US Digital on Fri., April 3. Photo by Paul Suarez
USD crew member Nick is seen here applying heat shrink tubing to cable at US Digital on Fri., April 3. Photo by Paul Suarez

Each encoder will be used in the assembly of vital ventilators, which save the lives of those fighting the COVID-19 virus. In the UK, the british government has set out the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium to have companies and industries quickly design and build ventilators for the medical industry. Project Pitlane is one piece of that challenge.

“They have been working on making ventilators to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said USD Creative and Marketing team member Paul Suarez. “I think people are really excited. When I came in to take a couple photos, I noticed there was an ESPN article about the project taped up in one employee’s workstation.” 

The encoders that USD has assembled and shipped to Project Pitlane, control a very important part of a ventilator: air flow. Every ventilator has a few jobs, chiefly among them helping a patient breathe when he or she cannot breathe safely on their own. Many hospitalized COVID-19 patients experience severe breathing difficulties as a result of a cytokine storm in the lungs. 

USD crew member Justin is preparing packages of cables for shipping at US Digital to send encoders to Project Pitlane. Photo by Paul Suarez
USD crew member Justin is preparing packages of cables for shipping at US Digital to send encoders to Project Pitlane. Photo by Paul Suarez

Inside every ventilator there are motors that pump the air and encoders that regulate the flow of air by controlling the device’s speed, volume and frequency. The devices shipped by USD in Vancouver will do just that in thousands of ventilators to be used in England and beyond. 

“They’re a pretty humble crew about the work they do,” Suarez said of the USD crew. “They’re saying it’s just another day as far as they come in, and they make products everyday. It is cool to see that they came in an extra shift, that’s another 10 hours, and we’re putting our all into it. They were definitely excited to know that their work was directly going to help people in this crisis.”

USD learned about the order from Project Pitlane about a week ago, and decided to expedite the process last week since the virus is actively spreading. Normally closed on Friday and the weekend, USD assembled the 5,000 encoders and shipped 3,000 last week. The remaining 2,000 went out Tuesday.

USD crew member Nick is seen here applying heat shrink tubing to cable at US Digital during the assembly of 5,000 encoders to be used in ventilators. Photo by Paul Suarez
USD crew member Nick is seen here applying heat shrink tubing to cable at US Digital during the assembly of 5,000 encoders to be used in ventilators. Photo by Paul Suarez

USD is an “‘essential’’ business and has been able to maintain operation with proper social distancing measures in spite of Washington’s “‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’’ order. 

“We are so thankful to help equip such a highly motivated and competent team in a race to save lives,” said USD Founder David Madore. “We each have been given our abilities and resources for such a time as this. Thank God that each of us has a role to play. If there ever was a time to pray and ask God for His help and to help us to recognize how we can help, this is that time.”

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a graduate of WSU Pullman’s Edward R. Murrow College where he studied journalism and media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and abroad in Argentina. He has won a regional Emmy and Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his film work. His passions range from sharing the love of Jesus, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife and son in Vancouver, WA. Proverbs 16:3

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