CHANDAN B MALLIK, Kolkata: As the number of coronavirus cases touch new highs all over the globe, it’s trying time for those individuals and organisations that are trying to contain it. As the respiratory system is seriously affected, infected patients are put on live-saving machines like ventilators to help breathe normally. And its this piece of vital equipment is becoming scarce as medical suppliers are unable to cope with the sudden rush in demand.
Under pressure hospital ventilator manufacturers are now looking beyond conventional sources of suppliers. And there’s a bright spot in avoiding a potential crisis under the circumstances from an unrelated source — automakers and aerospace industry.
Siare Engineering is Italy’s largest manufacturer of hospital ventilators, has turned to Italian automakers Ferrari and Fiat to help them out. The Italian government wants the hospital ventilator maker to increase production from 160 units per month to 500 units as the country’s death toll has surpassed 3,400 and is climbing rapidly.
“We’re talking to Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari and Marelli to try to understand if they can lend us a hand in this process for the electronics part,” Gianluca Preziosa, Siare’s chief executive said in an interview quoted by Reuters,
It’s no secret that modern cars are endowed with advanced electronics and their expertise in electronics and pneumatics therefore qualifies them to become ideal partners.
A spokesman for Exor, parent of both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ferrari, said that meetings with Siare had taken place on Thursday to study the feasibility of the idea.
Besides Fiat and Ferrari in Italy, reportedly Ford and GM are also making plans with the US government for making critical parts for ventilator machines.
In UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reached out to Ford, Honda and Rolls-Royce for similar ideas and execution.
Tesla’s Elon Musk and Anand Mahindra of India-based Mahindra Group have tweeted their offer to build ventilators. UK based sports car maker McLaren is looking at how to design a simple version of a ventilator, and Nissan is working with other partners to support existing ventilator producers.
So how will the partnership between automakers and medical equipment makers work? It seems there are two options. One, is to help the ventilators maker increase capacity increase at its plant with the support of technicians provided by carmakers, or outsource production of ventilator parts to the carmakers’ facilities as second option.
Ventilator manufacturing involves precision milling and 3D printing techniques that help manufacture complex parts. Ventilators are sophisticated machines which move air in and out of the lungs, could be the difference between life and death for coronavirus patients suffering breathing difficulties.
European aerospace group Airbus is working across its processes to see if its 3D printing or production facilities can be used to make parts for ventilator makers.