Innovation is crucial, especially during crises. Even as the world is being turned upside down by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), companies around are shifting production lines and business models to address the needs of governments and healthcare agencies in their efforts to slow the spread of the pandemic. UK companies Dyson and Gtech, US auto majors General Motors (GM) and Ford, new-age electric carmaker Tesla, and Japanese auto giant Toyota have pledged to make on war-footing ventilators, which are in a desperate global short supply as more and more critically ill Covid-19 patients require safe and consistent ventilation. The Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur is developing portable ventilators which will be significantly cheaper than the ones available in the market.
Both Dyson and Gtech are working on ventilator hardware, leveraging their experience building vacuums and other motor-driven airflow gadgets to spin up new designs and get them validated and produced as quickly as possible. Dyson is working with The Technology Partnership on a brand new ventilator design called the CoVent. This design is meant to be made quickly and at high volumes, and leverages Dyson’s existing Digital Motor design, as well as the company’s air purification products. The globally recognised appliance maker’s founder James Dyson, responding to a request from the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for ventilator supplies, intends to first fulfil an order of 10,000 units.
The CoVent meets the specifications set out by clinicians for ventilator hardware, and is both bed-mounted and portable with a battery power supply, for flexible use across a variety of settings, including during patient transportation. Because it uses a lightly modified version of Dyson’s existing Digital Motor design, the company says that the fan units needed for its production are “available in very high volume.”
Gtech, also a home appliance and vacuum maker, has received a request to build up to 30,000 ventilators in just a two-week span, which promoted them to quickly set about figuring out what went into the design of this medical hardware. Gtech’s team developed a ventilator that can be made from parts easily obtained from abundant stock materials, or off-the-shelf pre-assembled parts. The company says that it can spin up production of around 100 per day within a week or two, so long as it can source steel fabrication and CNC machining suppliers. In addition to its own production capacity, Gtech is making its ventilator designs available for free to the broader community in order to ramp production. The company says that “there’s no reason why thousands of emergency ventilators can’t be made each day” in this way.
GM and Ford separately announced they are working with companies to help boost ventilator production. GM and its partner Ventec Life Systems confirmed the No.1 US automaker will build ventilators at its Kokomo, Indiana parts plant and ship as soon as next month. A source familiar with the plans said GM would start building prototypes within two weeks and begin shipping “significant” numbers by end of April and increase production from there. Ford said it was moving as fast as it could to gear up its ventilator manufacturing efforts. Toyota Motor Corp said it was finalising agreements to begin working with at least two companies that produce ventilators and respirators to help increase their capacity.
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