Automakers flight ventilator shortages

The World faces a dangerous shortage of ventilators, the essential devices that assist the breathing of critically ill COVID-19 patients. Ventilators, which move air in and out of the lungs, could be the difference between life and death.


While the makers of N95 masks, Ventilators, and other protective gear are straining to ramp up production, other companies are stepping in. But there are similarities between some types of operations. “If we think about what medical device manufacturers do, they use certain basic processes such as injection molding, laser cutting, machining, some 3D printing,” says Satyandra Gupta, director of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the University of Southern California. “Now if we think about a lot of appliance companies or automakers, they use similar kinds of processes”. So Why not automakers make ventilators!


But switching from cars to ventilators is not so easy. Ventilators are complex machines that use sophisticated software and specialized parts, and companies that seek to manufacture them face several hurdles — including intellectual property rights, the need for specially trained workers, regulatory approvals and safety considerations. So far, Automakers have announced they've been teaming up with existing ventilator makers to help them ramp up production. And some are exploring producing ventilators in their factories.


It’s the government’s latest effort in the struggle against the coronavirus, which has achieved a perfect balance of severity and contagiousness that’s overwhelming the material resources of modern medicine. Well before the feared peak in infections protective gear like respirators, gloves, and gowns are already scarce. All projections show that the coming surge of severe cases that require mechanical ventilators to keep patients breathing could far outstrip stocks of the medical machines. 

Here are some initiatives from Automakers around the world:


Tesla

Tesla announced that it would reopen its New York production facility to manufacture medical devices instead of solar panels to assist Medtronic in producing ventilators. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak said that the Fridley, Minn.-based company would ramp up ventilator production and is currently making 250 ventilators a week. With the help of Tesla, Medtronic is on track to double capacity and manufacture on a 24/7 basis.

Medtronic also this week open-sourced one of its lower level ventilator IPs, allowing startups, investors, manufacturers, and academic institutions to ramp up ventilator design and production.


General Motors 

General Motors was the first US automaker to officially lend a hand in the coronavirus pandemic after it announced a partnership with Ventec Life Systems to expedite the production of ventilators. GM said it's already started retooling its plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to build ventilators in partnership with Ventec. Previously, the efforts only went as far as GM lending purchasing, logistics and manufacturing expertise to the company. By working together with Ventec, It’s expected to manufacture approximately 10,000 critical care ventilators per month. While work moves forward in Indiana, GM has taken a second step. It will reopen its plant in Warren, Michigan to build Level 1 surgical masks for health care workers. Within weeks it will be able to produce up to 50,000 masks per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day. 


Ford

Ford announced that it will start making desperately needed ventilators that are crucial for treating the worst symptoms of COVID-19. It will manufacture ventilators for General Electric’s health care division, which has licensed a simplified design that does not need electricity from a Florida ventilator company called Airon and one that is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, it is already helping make masks and protective hoods for health care workers. It will pay 500 United Auto Workers-represented volunteer employees to build the ventilators at one of the automaker’s components factories in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which is currently shut down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The company will build the ventilators “around the clock” starting the week of April 20th. It is expected to be able to build 1,500 of them by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May, and 50,000 by July, eventually reaching a rate of 30,000 per month.


Dyson

Dyson has developed a Ventilator that it has named CoVent, The famous household appliance manufacturer plans to fill a major order for the new device from the British National Health Service (NHS). For key mechanical functions, the new device makes use of a motor that is identical to those installed in the brand's vacuum cleaners. The ventilator will be officially made available in British hospitals when it fully meets British health authority specifications. Dyson has pledged to produce 10,000 of its new CoVent machines for Britain and will thereafter be able to export the device to other countries across the globe.


Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler 

Exor, the Amsterdam-based owner of Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler, is in talks to assist Bologna-based Siare Engineering, as they ramp up ventilator production from 160 units to 500 a month. In addition to manufacturing operations, car manufacturers have access to plastic, metal, and electronic supplies. Ferrari, the Italy-based luxury carmaker, has sent specialized personnel to assist Siare, but they are also planning to manufacture ventilator parts in-house at its Maranello headquarters. They will be joined by Fiat Chrysler which also plans to make 1 million face masks a month for medical workers.


Toyota

Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American unit will help two companies increase the production of ventilators and respirators. Toyota will also begin producing 3D printed face shields the week of March 30. The first batch will go to hospitals in Houston, Dallas, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan. The company is also looking for partners to produce COVID-19 mask filters.


Nissan 

Nissan is working with others to support existing ventilator producers to help to expand capacity.

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McLaren

McLaren is involved in the project with aerospace engineering company Meggit. It is looking at how to design a simple version of a ventilator.


Volkswagen

German carmaker Volkswagen was joining other manufacturers around the world to explore using 3D printing to make hospital ventilators to combat the coronavirus. Also, IT has already pledged to give its protective face masks to health workers. 


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