Car manufacturing companies around the world are answering calls by governments to provide help in the manufacturing of ventilators and face masks to help face the coronavirus pandemic. Work on converting one of its factories in China to enable it to make about one million masks a month had been started on Monday by Fiat.
The company’s chief executive Mike Manley said in an email to the media that the company plans to start production within the next few coming weeks.
There are other car makers who are also trying to find out ways that they can use their manufacturing facilities for making ventilators.
While the Japanese carmaker Nissan and Formula 1 have join hands to make try and manufacture ventilators and masks in the United Kingdom, General Motors, Ford and Tesla in the United States have all promised to lend support and use the resources at their disposal to make more ventilators.
Production has been halted by all almost all of the major car plants in the US, Europe and Asia in order to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. However the companies are still willing to help in the manufacturing of ventilators and other critical medical equipment needed to treat patient of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! Go for it auto execs, let’s see how good you are?” tweeted US President Donald Trump on Sunday.
Prior to that tweet the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had said that the regulator had relaxed the preconditions required to be fulfilled by companies for approval for manufacturing of medical device so that the production of ventilators can be accelerated.
“Medical device makers can more easily make changes to existing products, such as changes to suppliers or materials, to help address current manufacturing limitations or supply shortages,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Other manufacturers, such as auto makers, can more easily repurpose production lines to help increase supply.”
However the process of switching production from cars to ventilators and other medical equipment will not be easy for car makers, warned some experts and analysts.
The various raw materials and the components that are critically required for manufacturing of ventilators are “highly specific” and require “specialised know-how”, said Jens Hallek, head of ventilator manufacturer Hamilton Medical, in an interview to Wired.
“These are extremely sensitive machines with not only a lot of hardware, but also a lot of software. If one of the components does not work correctly, the whole machine shuts down and cannot be used anymore,” he said.
It could be more than a year that a car making company or one in the aerospace industry could be able to start making ventilators, former US Defense Department officials told the Washington Post.
(Adapted from BBC.com)