June 8, 2020
Photos by: Bryan van der Beek | Words by: Serene Goh
(Photo Above) Mr Chong Siew Yin fabricating the interior covers for the negative pressure system.
The engineering team building the COMET fleet is no stranger to tough briefs.
For them, designing medical transport for COVID-related passengers is a less complex gig than their usual work: building special function vehicles. That includes the various generations of Red Rhino fire trucks since 2009, and is best known as the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) light fire attack vehicles (LFAV).
(Above) Mr Yeh Kooi San preparing the air conditioning ducting.
“We’re used to building first responders vehicles,” said TRIGEN Automotive’s lead engineer Mr Vinoth Pannirsilvam, 32, which includes Singapore’s first dual-function Fire Medical Vehicle (FMV). The FMVs are hybrid emergency vehicles that merge the firefighting capability of a lightweight fire engine with the medical support functions of an ambulance.
(Above) Mr Yeh Kooi San preparing the air conditioning ducting for the COMET MINI.
TRIGEN Automotive, the special-function vehicle division of HOPE Technik, has been focused on retrofitting buses and vans, working with a multicultural team at the Liannex Corporation workshop at Sungei Kadut Way.
(Above) Mr Kariyaiyan Rajesh Kumar applying sealant on the edges of the acrylic viewing window.
Since April 20, Mr Vinoth, and TRIGEN Automotive head Mr Vic Naidu, 35, have been engaged in the engineering design and conversion work for the COMET fleet, with the buses rolling out on May 6 to shuttle the first COVID-19 related passengers.
(Above) The system completely minimises the risk of transmission by keeping separated air circulation within both cabins, and the negative pressure system is designed to international standards, notes Mr Vinoth Pannirsilvam, 32, lead engineer at TRIGEN Automotive. Drivers do not come into contact with passengers, and vehicles are decontaminated at the day’s end.
In addition to the COMET-Maxis, a fleet of 20 buses, they are also turning five Toyota Hiace High Roof Vans into negative pressure transporters that can fit nine passengers. They’re called — you guessed it — COMET-MINIs.
It helps that both Mr Vic and Mr Vinoth are multilingual, facilitating work among a multi-disciplinary group of welders, panellers and electricians from Malaysia, China and India at Liannex Corp.
“We have found that conveying our point visually sometimes is easier, as there is no language barrier. We do this via the means of simple sketches, design drawings and photos,” said Mr Vinoth.
(Above) Sheares Healthcare manages the COMET fleet, which will be used to complement the Health Ministry’s patient transport services. SMRT subsidiary STRIDES Transportation oversees operations, driver training and vehicle maintenance.
(Above) Mr Muruganandham Samiayya bolts on a negative pressure system blower onto the mounting rack in preparation for installation onto a COMET Mini.
(Above) Mr Muruganandham Samiayya and Tan Kian Keong then mount the negative air pressure blower into a custom opening on the side of a COMET Mini.
(Above) Mr Muruganandham Samiayya checks the alignment of the negative air pressure blower with the opening to ensure they line up before bolting the system down and sealing the edges.
(Above) Mr Mulleri Jithin wiring up the inverter for the negative pressure system.
(Above) PVC seat covers wrapped over default fabric seats to help in effective decontamination of the vehicle.
(Above) Mr Kariyaiyan Rajesh Kumar, fitting on the differential pressure gauge for the negative pressure system.
From start to finish, each MINI takes about two to three days to complete. Because van seats come in a factory default of fabric, these have to be covered with PVC seat covers so they can be more efficiently decontaminated.
“On a typical day, the day begins with a very quick status check on the current progress, and planning what needs to be completed with the shop floor manager,” said Mr Vinoth.
“He then passes instructions to his team for execution. Throughout the day, we keep track of the progress, and help the team solve any issues that may crop up. Primarily, most communication is in English. But when some of the teammates have trouble understanding, we try our best to speak their native language — Tamil or Mandarin — so that they can better understand what needs to be done.”
(Above) Meet the Aven-gineers:
Back (L-R): Mr Wong Fook Kam, 65, Finishing/Housekeeping from Liannex Corporation; Mr Chan Kong Song, 54, factory manager, Liannex Corp; Mr Chong Siew Yin, 56, Welder, Liannex Corp; Mr Heng Meng Seng, 49, air-conditioner installer, Cool-Air Technology; Mr Kariyaiyan Rajesh Kumar, 34, panelling, Liannex Corp; Mr Tan Kian Keong, 53, welder, Liannex Corp; Mr Yeh Kooi San, 47, mechanic, Liannex Corp; Ms Ellice Ng, 58, sales manager, Liannex Corp.
Front (L-R): Mr Mulleri Jithin, 26, electrical technician, Liannex Corp; Mr Han Tian Wei, 40, mechanic, Liannex Corp; Mr Vicneswaran Naidu, 35, head of TRIGEN Automotive, HOPE Technik; Mr Kariyaiyan Rajesh Kumar, 34, panelling, Liannex Corp; Mr Muruganandham Samiayya, 33, panelling, Liannex Corp; Mr Kuzhanthaivel Prabu, 40, panelling, Liannex Corp; Mr Vinoth Pannirsilvam, 32, lead engineer of TRIGEN Automotive, HOPE Technik.