Antimicrobial multitool to tackle post-lockdown anxiety

Fractory, the award-winning Manchester cloud manufacturing startup, has announced the launch of SafeKey, an antimicrobial multitool that kills harmful bacteria, such as Covid-19, in as little as two hours. 

The tool 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.


Key facts

  • SafeKey is constructed from easy-to-clean antimicrobial brass to reduce the amount of time Covid-19 can live on the surface
  • It eliminates the need to touch potentially contaminated surfaces such as door handles, cash machines, lift buttons and more
  • It even doubles as a bottle opener and a wrench and attaches to your belt with a retractable cord
  • Inventors envision a second wave of post-lockdown innovation as people adjust to a ‘new normal’

The team behind SafeKey, who’ve been using their sheet metal fabrication platform to support the NHS 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, head of marketing at makers Fractory, said: "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 58%. 

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

SafeKey is constructed from CZ108 grade brass containing 64% copper

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

Martin Vares, Fractory CEO and inventor of SafeKey
Martin Vares, Fractory CEO and inventor of SafeKey

“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. 

Organisational 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 around issues such as hygiene and contamination.

"Workplaces in particular will need to do a lot of planning to minimise 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 importantly 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 behaviours emerge. Mask-wearing is an obvious one that's already happening and other 'performative' behaviours will emerge too, such as people ensuring that they are seen to be sanitising their hands, stepping aside in narrow corridors and avoiding unnecessary contact."

Fractory have launched SafeKey on IndieGoGo and are already taking orders.