From Vehicles to Ventilators



At War with a Virus

During these unprecedented times, it is indeed heartening to see how some private sector companies are stepping up to help in the battle against COVID-19. Several car manufacturers around the world have re-purposed their production lines to produce much needed Personal Protection Equipment (or PPE’s) for front line staff who desperately need this equipment in battling the pandemic.

The repurposing of Automobile Manufacturers

Both Ford and GM have teamed up with several medical device makers – such as 3M, GE, and Ventec Life Systems – in an effort to produce mass quantities of much-needed face shields, respirators, and ventilators.

What is a ventilator?

Ventilators are used to combat the effects of respiratory failure with potentially life-saving therapy to increase oxygen flow in patients suffering from COVID-19.

The hope is that the joint venture will result in the production of approximately 200,000 more ventilators which can be shipped to areas of the US hardest hit by the virus.

To enable faster assembly of respirators, Ford and 3M are collaborating on a new design that leverages parts from both companies. The effort includes locating off-the-shelf parts like fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles, and portable tool battery packs to power the respirators for up to eight hours. Production might take place at a Ford manufacturing plant in addition to 3M’s production facilities.

What is the importance of a face shield?

Respirators and face shields are used to protect healthcare workers and others from the airborne transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The purpose of face shields is to block the face and eyes from coming in contact with any airborne viruses. Countries are quickly learning that, when paired with N95 masks (respirators), face shields provide an excellent means for keeping these incredibly brave men and women safe. Using 3D-printing technology, the Ford Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan will produce 100,000 face shields a week.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead to Nissan, Meggitt, and McLaren to begin developing basic ventilator prototypes.

Nissan will focus on the manufacturing of ventilators alongside Meggitt (who produces oxygen systems for aircrafts) and McLaren to add its design expertise. The consortium is striving to build 5,000 more ventilators as soon as possible, with ambitions to build 30,000 which is expected to begin within one month.

And in Spain, renewables company Grenergy has ordered and donated 55,000 articles of PPE’s to the Madrid City Council.

The Madrid-based company on Friday announced 30,000 pairs of nitrile gloves, 15,000 N95 protective masks and 5,000 each of protective glasses and suits were on their way from China and expected to be delivered in “the coming days.” The renewables business, which is also based in Madrid, said the equipment would be issued by the local authority to police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, undertakers, and health centers and would also be used by civil protection staff and workers at the Madrid Salud public health laboratory and the Mercamadrid fresh produce wholesale market.

Also in China, BYD Auto (Build Your Dreams) – the electric vehicle and electronics business – has opened what it described as “the world’s largest mass-produced face masks plant.” By March 13th, BYD was producing “5 million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectant per day and raising output by 300,000-500,000 masks daily as it installed 5-10 mask production machines at a Shenzhen facility previously used to assemble smartphones.” Engineers were able to ramp up their R&D manufacturing procedures to rapidly increase production in Shenzen with hundreds of staff working 24/7.

Meanwhile, in California, Tesla has learned that with the recent success of physical distancing in China, there was an over-supply of ventilators that were not being used. Tesla Motors has since purchased 1,255 FDA-approved ResMed, Philips, and Medtronic ventilators which will be distributed to hospitals throughout California. Like Ford and GM, Tesla Motors is also looking into ways to repurpose their efforts in the manufacturing of ventilators by reopening its Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York while working with Medtronic at its Fremont factory.

Originally, Musk downplayed the dangers of COVID-19 – likening it to a typical seasonal influenza. But like so many others, once the reality of the scientific data became better known, not only did he quickly change his mind, he had a significant change of heart.

We are all in this together

During this difficult time in human history, there is no distinction – political, moral, philosophical, or otherwise – between countries or ideologies. There is simply humanity. And as such, we will come together to do whatever is necessary to defeat this pathogen and emerge with a better sense of compassion and understanding that we are at our very best when things are worst.

For more on recent developments check out The Electric Blog.