Innovation making a differenceHeliMods design and develop innovative products and solutions for the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) industry to be used by front-line paramedics in their life-saving missions every day.
Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) typically operate in environments that would be otherwise impossible to navigate by traditional emergency services, including accessing rural and remote communities.
The window of time between reaching a patient and getting them to the care they need safely is absolutely critical and can often mean the difference between whether or not a life can be saved. The same is true for the emergency medical equipment on board the aircraft. Front-line crews need access to everything they require quickly and safely to enable the best possible care for patients while they’re in the air.
These challenges are at the heart of what Queensland-based aerospace technology company HeliMods tackles every day. Through applying technology in novel ways, HeliMods designs and develops innovative solutions that make a real difference and can be scaled to achieve impact anywhere in the world.
HeliMods’ StoryHeliMods was founded in 2002 by Australian entrepreneur Will Shrapnel – a qualified engineer, pilot, aircraft technician and businessman. The company has grown into a globally recognised, award-winning aerospace technology specialist with a reputation for quality, excellence and, most notably, innovation. Investing in Siemens technology early on has been critical to their growth and competitiveness.
Of the many novel innovations HeliMods has produced and delivered to market, both locally and internationally, one stands out for its transformational impact on patients and paramedics – the Powered Aero Loader™ (PAL™).
While automated stretcher loading technology began to appear in road ambulance vehicles a few years back, applying the technology to aircraft was considered the holy grail, given the significant engineering complexity involved. Will Shrapnel, however, saw this as an opportunity to innovate.
Through extensive R&D, investment and the application of technology, HeliMods went on to successfully develop the world-first PAL™ technology, which is now operational across one of the largest air ambulance fleets in the world.
The PAL™ is a fully automated stretcher system, which can load and unload a patient weighing up to 318kg into a helicopter with no manual lifting. It is also interoperable with road ambulances, easing the transfer of patients between air and road transport.
This is a significant leap forward that shaves critical seconds off rescue times, while also improving the wellbeing and safety of paramedics crews by eliminating the need to manually manoeuvre patients into aircraft.
You don’t have to be a large organisation to be on your digital journey. HeliMods are doing a fantastic job using their own innovation with Siemens technology to compete with some of the largest players around the world.Samantha Murray, Managing Director, Siemens Digital Industries Software
Efficient and economical design processHeliMods uses a suite of Siemens software to assist them with developing integrated solutions for the configuration and fit out of helicopters to meet a diverse range of customer needs in Australia and worldwide.
Teamcenter™ is a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution that connects people and processes with a digital thread, enabling innovation and ensuring that the entire life cycle of a product is monitored and adjusted as circumstances require. It allows users to manage the entire digital environment of their products, from the early designs all the way through to manufacture and integration.
HeliMods manage all their product and supporting information in Teamcenter’s™ integrated environment, giving all users real-time information. Integrated workflow and change management ensures information is reviewed and released through a managed, streamlined process.
“HeliMods uses PLM software to bring together data, processes, business systems and people – from ideation to design and manufacture, service and disposal,” says Samantha Murray, Managing Director, Siemens Digital Industries Software.
3DCAD was one of the early investments that was important to letting me design and model in an environment that could see me transfer ideas onto an aircraft and to scale. With a small team, 3D technologies allowed us to do more work with fewer people. We’ve grown on that same philosophy today. We do a lot of work with the team at its size because of the powerful technologies we drive.Will Shrapnel, MD and Founder, HeliMods
Utilising Siemens NX™ computer-aided design (CAD) software integrated with Teamcenter™, HeliMods can interactively design all product components and leverage the diverse array of advanced software integrations available, such as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) to effectively iterate and create optimised product solutions for its customers. The integration and use of a single master model ensures all design iterations are automatically captured, speeding up workflows by removing the need for extensive re-work when changes are made.
Flexibility, speed and agility are key, as is the ability to deliver solutions to customers anywhere in the world. Through 3D digital twin capabilities, HeliMods can create a complete digital definition of every aircraft and its components, and design totally customisable solutions for each unique environment – from any location. This reduces the necessity for major re-work and allows the needs of each customer to be met with tailored solutions. Integrated simulation with Simcenter also ensures the structures produced meet product performance requirements for the range of scenarios they'll face in the field.
CEO of Siemens Australia, Jeff Connolly described the HeliMods mindset as “exactly on point” and applauded their “vision and understanding that they could do things in the digital world before going to build something in the real world.”
These technologies help us manage our whole digital environment, so we can understand our design process from requirement, right through to what we integrate onto the aircraft for the special missions. We use a lot of simulation and heavy technology to bring our innovations to life. This allows us to actually find out exactly how our products will respond in the environment they are designed forWill Shrapnel, MD and Founder, HeliMods
A few years ago, Ornge undertook a global search to look for innovative alternatives to their current air ambulance system, with the aim of improving the delivery of quality patient care, as well as improving paramedic safety.
This led them to the HeliMods team, who took on the challenge and sought to meet Ornge’s brief through their unique and innovative approach – bringing together digital design, engineering and manufacturing technologies in an impressive feat of collaboration. This culminated in the PAL™ automated stretcher loading system, a world-first innovation that has revolutionised the way Ornge have been able to care for both their patients and their paramedics.
“It’s probably the single greatest improvement that we’ve made to patient care and employee satisfaction,” says Justin Pyke, the Director of Paramedics at Ornge. “We’ve already noticed the difference that it makes to our response times.”
LifeFlight conduct a very broad scope of rescue activities, from hospital retrievals and car accidents to remote evacuations. HeliMods and LifeFlight worked together to transform their fleet from basic aircraft into specialist machines that can now act essentially as flying intensive care units. HeliMods’ technologies integrated into LifeFlight aircraft include a stretcher system, medical floor, specialist equipment compartments and integrated gas and electrical systems that provides surgical quality lighting and plumbed medical gas.
“RACQ LifeFlight are a vital service to Queensland,” says Shaun Gillett, LifeFlight Training Officer. “The HeliMods technology makes our job much easier, we can offload our equipment faster, get to our patients quicker, load them into the aircraft and get them to the higher care they need much faster.”