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Archive of posts published in the category: ventilators
Apr
23

Inside the Canadian automotive industry’s mission to make more ventilators

Linda Hasenfratz, president, chairman, and CEO of Linamar, is photographed during a talk at the Rotman School of Management, on Oct. 23, 2018. Amid the novel coronavirus crisis, Ms. Hasenfratz and her company are engaged in what amounts to an unprecedented project.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Linda Hasenfratz, chief executive of auto-parts giant Linamar Corp., a company from Guelph, Ont., known the world over for building engine parts and transmissions, is now suddenly and deeply immersed in the challenge of producing hospital ventilators.

It’s not a particular business line she had envisioned for her firm even a month ago. “We had identified medical devices broadly as a market that we are interested in and are looking to expand into at some point … we’re exploring the field but ventilators were not on the list.”

Amid the novel coronavirus crisis, Ms. Hasenfratz and her company are engaged in what amounts to an unprecedented project. They are teaming up with other auto-parts makers to help a small Brampton, Ont.-based firm, O-Two Medical Technologies, produce 10,000 ventilators in a matter of months for the Ontario government.

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The Linamar CEO says, in some ways, an engine and a ventilator are not that different. “Both are complex assemblies full of very critical, precisely manufactured parts that need to be assembled in a certain way – and then the full assembly needs to be tested.”

O-Two is in charge but Linamar is spearheading the work by Magna International Inc., Martinrea International Inc. and ABC Technologies Inc., which have volunteered to bring their expertise to bear in this rapid escalation of production.

Plans are still being hammered out, but Ms. Hasenfratz said the auto-parts makers’ contributions will include parts. “We are tooling up a whole bunch of machined parts, like 40 different parts, that we can manufacture for them.”

Auto-parts makers say their industry is very good at expanding production quickly, manufacturing extremely precise items, dealing with suppliers to expedite the shipping of raw materials and components as well as eliminating or reducing bottlenecks on the production line. Plus, these firms have the financial resources on hand to quickly procure items.

“We’re used to highly precise manufacturing with very tight [measurement ] tolerances … and very high standards in terms of cleanliness,” Ms. Hasenfratz says.

She said parts makers could also take charge of subassembly – putting together components that will then form part of the ventilators – to make it easier for O-Two to focus on final assembly and testing.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association, which played a crucial role in bringing together the assistance for O-Two, said one option would be akin to sharing assembly of a Lego kit with a 30-page instruction manual. “It might be the best way to get to 10,000 ventilators is five pages belong to Linamar, you get your current medical suppliers to do five pages, you get Magna to do five pages and then Martinrea to do five pages. By

Apr
11

Tesla’s working on making ventilators from car parts

In the video, engineers at Tesla Engineering show off prototypes and a schematic laying out the proposed ventilator design as they explain how they are re-purposing various auto parts for the much needed medical devices.

“We want to use parts we know really well, we know the reliability of and we can go really fast and they’re available in volume,” Tesla Engineering Director Joseph Mardall said in the four-minute video, which has racked up more than 1.5 million views in less than 24 hours. Mardall stood in front of a diagram that indicated that many of the parts in the ventilator’s design are used in Tesla vehicles.
A prototype ventilator laid out on a table in the lab included a “mixing chamber” that, according to a Tesla engineer, was a part used in Tesla (TSLA) cars.

Another more complete prototype shown later in the video used a touchscreen display from a Model 3, as well as vehicle control machinery from a Model 3, according to other Tesla employees in the video.

Instead of the usual Model 3 displays, the ventilator screen showed plot lines for what would be a patient’s lung activity based on the pressure, flow and volume of air moving in and out of the pump.

The prototype ventilator includes a backup battery and self-contained air supply that could allow it to work when not plugged into hospital power and oxygen supplies. Those should provide 20 to 40 minutes during which a patient can be moved from one place to another in a hospital, according to the video.

Tesla employees in the video did not indicate when the ventilator they’re working on might be ready for mass production. The company also did not immediately respond to requests for more details on the project.

Tesla engineers have spoken with engineers from ventilator maker Medtronic, according to both companies, but it was not clear how much, if any, involvement Medtronic may have had with the ventilator project featured in the video.

Separately, SpaceX, the commercial space company also led by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, is making a critical part for Medtronic ventilators, according to Medtronic.

Musk has previously downplayed the seriousness of the the Covid-19 pandemic. On March 6th, he tweeted “The coronavirus panic is dumb” to his more than 30 million followers.
Other automakers, including General Motors and Ford, have started working on ventilators using designs from medical technology companies

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