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  1. Tesla plans to retool solar panel factory to make Medtronic ventilators Medtronic CEO confirmed Wednesday that Tesla will make one of its ventilators. Enlarge / Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images 94 with 53 posters participating Tesla is planning to retool its solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, to manufacture medical ventilators, CEO Elon Musk said in a Wednesday tweet. "Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible," Musk tweeted. "We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York." Tesla is making the ventilators in partnership with Medtronic. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak confirmed the relationship in a Wednesday interview with CNBC. "We're opening up with other partners who've come forward," Ishrak said. "Tesla is one that I think people have heard about. One of our ventilators will be made by them, and they're fast on track to try to make them." Ishrak added that "one of the products that we make, that is not our prime product right now, is one that is perfectly suitable at least in some of these instances, they will make." He said that Tesla would build its manufacturing capabilities "in parallel while we're focusing on the product that is our largest-volume product, which is the PB 980. We will do everything we can to help them." There are good reasons for Tesla to build ventilators based on an established design rather than trying to design a ventilator from scratch. Ventilators are complex machines. Because patient lives depend on them, high reliability is essential. And while the FDA has relaxed regulations for ventilator manufacturers, new designs would require FDA approval. That takes time—probably too much time given the rapid spread of the virus. Other car companies looking to aid with ventilator production have also partnered with established industry players. GM is working to support ventilator-maker Ventec, using its vast network of suppliers to help Ventec obtain parts that are in short supply. Ford is planning to help GE Health expand its ventilator output. Source: Tesla plans to retool solar panel factory to make Medtronic ventilators (Ars Technica)
  2. Dyson developed and is producing ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients The company plans to produce 15,000 ventilators Dyson — the British technology company best known for its high-powered vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, and fans — has designed a new ventilator, the “CoVent,” in the past several days, which it will be producing in order to help treat coronavirus patients, via CNN. The company reportedly developed the ventilator in 10 days based on Dyson’s existing digital motor technology. Dyson is still seeking regulatory approval in the UK for the rapidly designed device, but it’s already received an order from the UK Government for 10,000 ventilators, of which the National Health Service (NHS) is in dire need. The CoVent is a bed-mounted and portable ventilator, with the option to run on battery power should the need arise. “This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume,” company founder James Dyson noted in a letter to the company obtained by Fast Company, adding that the CoVent was “designed to address the specific clinical needs of Covid-19 patients.” Dyson also pledged in the letter to donate an additional 5,000 ventilators to “the international effort, 1,000 of which will go to the United Kingdom.” “The race is now on to get it into production,” Dyson noted in his letter, with a company spokesperson telling CNN that the ventilators would be ready in early April. Ventilators — which provide assisted breathing for patients who are unable to breath themselves — are critical for the treatment of severe cases of COVID-19, which causes respiratory symptoms in some patients. Dyson isn’t the only major company that’s pivoted to ventilator design and production in recent days — carmarkers like Ford, Tesla, and General Motors have also pledged to repurpose their plants toward developing the critical treatment devices as shortages around the world continue to grow. Source: Dyson developed and is producing ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients (The Verge)
  3. At Trump’s request, Ford and GM help ventilator makers boost output It's not easy to build a ventilator assembly line from scratch. Enlarge Taechit Taechamanodom 90 with 51 posters participating One of the most crucial things the United States can do to prepare for the surging coronavirus outbreak is to beef up our stockpile of ventilators. These mechanical breathing machines are crucial for keeping patients with severe cases of COVID-19 alive. The United States currently has around 170,000 of the devices; experts say that may not be enough if the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow exponentially. On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that "Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST!" (Presumably he meant "medical products.") This is an apparent reference to new guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, published Sunday, that dramatically loosens the agency's normally strict oversight of ventilator technology. The new policy not only gives medical professionals broader latitude to modify existing FDA-approved ventilators, it also creates a streamlined process for complete newcomers to the ventilator market to get FDA approval. So car companies have been swinging into action. GM announced a partnership with ventilator manufacturer Ventec last Friday. On Tuesday morning, Ford announced its own ventilator partnership with GE Healthcare. But ventilators are complex machines that can cost as much as $50,000 apiece. Reliability is crucial, since even a brief malfunction or loss of power could cost a patient his or her life. So it wouldn't be practical for any company to design and build ventilators from scratch in a few months. Instead, car companies are looking for ways to help existing vendors expand their output. GM and Ford are supporting existing ventilator companies Enlarge / Operators and assemblers assemble medical face shields. Ford is aiming to produce 100,000 plastic face shields per week. In a Friday press release, GM announced a partnership with medical device company Ventec. "Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more of their critically important ventilators," the two companies wrote in a joint press release. GM's main contribution seems to be helping Ventec beef up its supply chain. Like other automakers, GM sits at the apex of a vast network of suppliers, some of which have sophisticated manufacturing capabilities. GM is working to connect Ventec with suppliers who can supply scarce parts, allowing Ventec to boost output. Dustin Walsh, writing for Crain's Detroit, points to one example where GM has been helping Ventec. A GM supplier called Meridian is "helping GM procure six different ventilator compressor parts made of magnesium for an estimated 200,000 ventilators," Walsh wrote. Meridian's own machines couldn't produce the necessary parts, but Meridian connected GM with two other companies—competitors of Meridian—that were able to produce them. Another GM supplier "plans to start manufacturing foam parts for ventilators," according to Walsh. On Tuesday, Ford announced it was also getting into the ventilator business, though the details remain hazy. "Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19," Ford said in a press release. "These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location." Ford says that "work on this initiative ties to a request for help from US government officials." Ford is also planning to manufacture other medical equipment, including respirators (in partnership with 3M) and face shields. Other ventilator makers are expanding on their own Tesla, meanwhile, has talked to leading medical device company Medtronic. "Just had a long engineering discussion with Medtronic about state-of-the-art ventilators," Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday. "Very impressive team!" Medtronic's own tweet about the meeting was cordial but noncommittal: " We are grateful for the discussion with @ElonMusk and @Tesla as we work across industries to solve problems and get patients and hospitals the tools they need to continue saving lives," the company wrote. Medtronic has been working to boost its output without help from Tesla. Last week, the company announced that it was on track to double its rate of ventilator production and said it intended to double the workforce at its ventilator factory in Ireland. "Ventilator manufacturing is a complex process that relies on a skilled workforce, a global supply chain and a rigorous regulatory regime to ensure patient safety," Medtronic said in its press statement. Meanwhile, existing ventilator makers have been rushing to increase their output. GE's Health Care division announced plans to increase ventilator production—including having staff work around the clock. Swedish medical device company Getinge, Swiss company Hamilton, and Dutch electronics giant Philips are also working to boost ventilator production. The importance of government orders One of the most important things governments can do to promote ventilator production is to commit to buying ventilators in the future. Right now, medical device companies are able to sell ventilators as fast as they come off their existing assembly lines. But big increases in ventilator output will require companies to make expensive investments in new manufacturing capacity. That's a risky bet because the investments might become worthless if the coronavirus crisis peters out after a few months. The world could wind up with a big surplus of ventilators. Hospitals, too, may be reluctant to spend tens of thousands of dollars on ventilators that they might only need for a few months. Governments can reduce the risk manufacturers face by placing big orders for ventilators now. Having big orders in hand will make manufacturers more willing to make up-front investments to fill those orders. Of course, that creates a risk that the government will end up with a glut of ventilators it doesn't need. But it seems better to risk having too many ventilators in a few months than to risk having too few. Source: At Trump’s request, Ford and GM help ventilator makers boost output (Ars Technica)
  4. UK scientists have a smart plan to supply more respirators for coronavirus patients OxVent project aims to scale production of ventilators as required in local areas (Image credit: OxVent Project) A team of engineers and medics from Oxford University and King’s College London are collaborating in a project to test and build respirators that can be produced in university labs and SME workshops, in a bid to help treat coronavirus sufferers. The need for such ventilators to help those whose breathing is badly affected by the virus has been well-documented at this point, and the so-called OxVent project hopes to have a working prototype which can satisfy relevant safety standards in a ‘matter of weeks’, according to a report by Electronics Weekly. It would have to comply with MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) requirements, and if the initiative proceeds at the projected pace, the researchers believe a manufacturing network could be scaled up to produce the respirators within two to three months. The hope is that universities, small to medium enterprises and manufacturing facilities would be able to produce these ventilators on assembly lines close to local NHS services, scaling to the needed demand for respirators in any particular area. One of the OxVent team, Professor Farmery of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, observed: “Ordinarily, to develop a medical device such as this would be a huge task, and would take years. We have designed a simple and robust ventilator which will serve the specific task of managing the very sickest patients during this crisis. “By pooling available expertise from inside and outside the University, and making the design freely available to local manufacturers, we are pleased to be able to respond to this challenge so quickly.” Dr Formenti, another researcher on the project, added: “Thinking beyond the current pandemic, we are also aiming to share the know-how and refinement of this relatively inexpensive approach with other countries.” Prototype ventilator The scientists have already uploaded a video of the results of their first week of working on the prototype ventilator, as you can see above. The accompanying blog explains: “The Ambu or bag valve mask is confined within a rigid perspex box. This box can be pressurised from a 4 bar line. When it is pressurised, the Ambu compresses, providing an inhalation. When the pressure is switched off, the Ambu re-inflates.” This is one of many initiatives we’ve seen concerning producing medical equipment to help combat coronavirus, such as a call to produce an open source respirator, and Prusa kicking off a drive to make DIY 3D-printed face shields to help protect medical professionals who are treating patients with the virus. Meanwhile, over in the US, we’ve also heard that the big car makers Ford, GM and Tesla have been given the ‘go-ahead’ to make ventilators, and make them ‘fast’, President Trump made clear on Twitter. These car manufacturers have already been looking into how this might work, and indeed Ford could also be working with the UK government in producing necessary medical devices like respirators. Source: UK scientists have a smart plan to supply more respirators for coronavirus patients (TechRadar)
  5. Elon Musk says Tesla and SpaceX could build ventilators However, the billionaire downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19. Enlarge / Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla, says that his companies could help fill the gap in the event of a ventilator shortage. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images 266 with 128 posters participating, including story author Updated: we removed a reference to the ventilator manufacturer suing the Italian 3D printer. As with previous epidemics that attack the lungs, one of the biggest worries about COVID-19 is that we simply won't have enough ventilators to treat critically ill patients. It's a valid concern, based on reports from Italy. The US government has confirmed that the nation has a stockpile of more than 10,000 ventilators, but President Trump also recently told Twitter that it should be the states' responsibility to buy these vital life-saving devices. Over the past few days, there have been growing calls to mobilize advanced manufacturing industries to meet this need, and on Wednesday night, Elon Musk replied to a fan on twitter that his companies "will make ventilators if there is a shortage." However, the rocket and electric car billionaire also used the social media platform to downplay the seriousness of the situation, despite increasingly scary predictions from public health experts that appear to have woken the US government from its complacency. Over in the UK, where there are fewer than 6,000 ventilators available to its National Health Service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already called for industrial mobilization. Companies including Rolls-Royce (the jet engine maker, not the car company), Airbus, and Jaguar Land Rover have been asked if they can help address the pending shortage, and blueprints have been sent to more than 60 firms, according to The Guardian. Meanwhile in Italy, supply chain issues and the lack of a critical part has seen at least one hospital turn to 3D printing to keep the machines running. Source: Elon Musk says Tesla and SpaceX could build ventilators (Ars Technica)
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