UK startup fabricates antimicrobial multitool to tackle post-lockdown anxiety

As major economies around the world begin to resume activity after the Covid-19 pandemic, many are turning their thoughts to post lockdown life and tackling the many sources of anxiety that can hamper a swift and frictionless economic recovery.

One major issue facing some of the worst-hit countries is how workforces can resume activity while managing understandable anxieties about the second spike of infections.

To counter some of these fears, Fractory, the multi-award-winning Manchester, UK cloud manufacturing startup, have launched an antimicrobial multitool that kills harmful bacteria, such as Covid-19, in as little as two hours.

The tool, fabricated using Fractory’s own laser cutting capabilities, enables people to do everyday tasks like opening doors, operating a lift, using a cash machine or opening a supermarket freezer with a significantly lower risk of transmitting and picking up harmful microbes than they would if they were using their hands. The inventors believe SafeKey will help people go about their post-lockdown lives with less anxiety and less risk.

The team behind SafeKey, who’ve been using their sheet metal fabrication platform to support the UK’s National Health Service as subcontractors in recent weeks, are hopeful that products like theirs will help address the inevitable anxieties that will come after lock-down.

Andreas Velling (pictured), head of marketing at makers Fractory, says:

“We’ve been proud to have supported the NHS as a subcontractor during this challenging time. And the level of innovation from everyone that has gone into battling the virus, treating patients, and ensuring society can still function, has been very impressive. The rapid production of ventilators and masks plus supply chain innovation more generally – these have all been essential in keeping things moving.

“But I think what happens once lockdown is relaxed will be very important too. We’ll need to keep up the innovation to help people adjust to what will be a very different world. SafeKey is the start for us in exploring solutions to the problems we expect to face as we try to get back
to normal. We’re committed to playing a small part in that ‘second wave’ of post lockdown innovation.”

The science:
Copper alloys such as brass are commonly used to construct frequently-touched surfaces such as handrails and door handles due to the antimicrobial properties of copper. For a copper alloy to be effective in this regard, it must have a minimum copper component of

SafeKey is constructed from CZ108 grade brass containing 64% copper.

Martin Vares (pictured), Fractory CEO and inventor of SafeKey explains the thinking behind the invention. 

“We wanted to ensure the safety of the people in our own company which resulted in this idea. While there were similar products on offer, we created ours from brass, which is known for its anti-microbial properties and added a few more functionalities to SafeKey. 

“As it proved really popular among our team and their families, we decided to bring it to the public. 

Organizational psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper believes people will be anxious about re-entering public spaces, like shops and offices. 

“We’re still rightly focused on beating and treating the virus, but there will come a time when we need to address people’s legitimate anxieties around leaving the home, being in public space, and going back into work. People will have genuine concerns about issues such as hygiene and contamination. 

“Workplaces, in particular, will need to do a lot of planning to minimize anxiety around returning to work. And it will have to go further than extra cleaning and ensuring employees can keep a safe distance from one another. People will need regular updates on the steps their employers are taking to keep them safe. 

“Perhaps just as important as what we do to protect ourselves, people will be anxious to be seen to be doing everything they can to protect others. We’ll likely see new social behaviors emerge. Mask-wearing is an obvious one that’s already happening and other ‘performative’ behaviors will emerge too, such as people ensuring that they are seen to be sanitizing their hands, stepping aside in narrow corridors and avoiding unnecessary contact.”