The current global pandemic is straining much of the world’s medical resources and its ability to combat it. As such, car manufacturers, some of whom have already shut down their plants, are retooling their factories with the machinery and tech needed to produce medical equipment such as respirators, ventilators and surgical masks.
But how do car makers go from making cars and car parts, to making medical equipment? Most auto makers have industrial 3D printers, which they use to produce prototype components, are now being repurposed to produce ventilators and other equipment. Others, meanwhile, are using off-the-shelf-parts to produce make-shifts respirators.
For example, Ford North America has partnered up with 3M and General Electric (GE) to keep up with the global demand for N95 respirators, face shields and ventilators. “Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO.
Elsewhere, General Motors announced recently that they will be building VOCSN critical care ventilators at GM’s plant in Indiana, USA. GM is said to deploy an estimated 1,000 workers to scale production of the ventilators. GM will also start producing level 1 surgical masks from this week at a rate of 50,000 pieces per day, with the potential to increase capacity to 100,000 pieces.
“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “This partnership has rallied the GM enterprise and our global supply base to support Ventec, and the teams are working together with incredible passion and commitment. I am proud of this partnership as we work together to address urgent and life-saving needs.”
Across the Atlantic, a collection of Formula One teams have put their rivalry on hold for the time being to form the Project Pitlane initiative, to respond to the British government’s call for help in producing medical equipment. The initiative is focused on three workstreams in particular. These include reverse engineering medical devices, scaling production of existing ventilator designs, to the rapid design and prototype manufacture of a new device for certification and subsequent production.
It really is all-hands-on-deck when it comes to tackling this global pandemic. Even European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, is doing its part by pitching in an Airbus A330-200 airframe as an air-bridge between China and Europe to deliver medical supplies.
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