OEMs Making Gear, Equipment to Fight COVID-19

Positivity Is Leading to Some Great Productivity

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04/07/2020

Christine Dunne

 

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Industry OEMs are using their manufacturing capabilities to produce various gear and equipment aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Some of these initiatives were mentioned in an earlier Keypoint Intelligence blog post, but this article will discuss several recent efforts in greater detail.

 

Ricoh face shield prototype (Source: Ricoh Europe)

 

Lexmark Headquarters Responds to Local Needs

After discovering a need for face shields at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, Lexmark  worked with one of its emergency room physicians to develop, test, and fine-tune a face shield prototype. Once the prototype was finalized, Lexmark began producing the shields—to the tune of 100–150 per day.

 

Each shield consists of inner and outer portions that protect the face from airborne particles and liquid contamination. The outer part is made from polycarbonate material that is split into pieces with a laser cutter. The inner part is produced from plastic wrap, which provides the necessary protective seal. Each day, two shifts of seven people each manually assemble the shields while maintaining social distancing.

 

With Lexmark producing more shields than the hospital requires (which is about 400 per week), it is looking into offering them to other hospitals. That said, with materials for about 1,600 shields, it is also seeking to procure more materials for its effort.

 

Sharp to Expand Production of Surgical Masks

After starting to make surgical masks in Japan for healthcare workers and the public, Sharp Corp. said it would also produce these items at sites in Europe, India, and China to answer the sudden demand caused by COVID-19. The starting dates and scales of operations are yet to be determined, but Sharp Chairman and President Tai Jeng-Wu said the initiative could become a long-term, sustainable business.

 

The effort in Japan followed the government’s call to offset a national shortage of masks. Using equipment subsidized by the government at a liquid crystal display plant in Mie Prefecture, Sharp made its first delivery to the government at the end of March. The eventual goal is to produce half a million masks per day at this facility and to also expand sales to the company’s online shopping site.

 

Xerox to Help Make Disposable Ventilators

Xerox is joining forces with Vortran Medical Technology to produce Vortran’s GO2Vent ventilator and related Airway Pressure Monitor (APM-PLUS) for hospitals and emergency response units treating COVID-19 patients. These disposable FDA-approved products are ideal for emergency situations, inter-hospital transport, and MRIs, helping free up ICU-level breathing devices for those who need them most.

 

The companies expect to manufacture about 40,000 ventilators in April, before upping this number to between 150,000 and 200,000 by June (provided sufficient parts are available). This could mean production of up to one million ventilators in the coming months. Xerox will work out of its facility outside of Rochester, New York, while Vortran will continue to make ventilators at its plant in Sacramento, California.

 

These ventilators, which are gas-operated and able to be set up within minutes, can provide continuous ventilatory support for up to 30 days. When used with the APM-Plus battery-operated, portable device, enhanced monitoring of patient status and important respiratory parameters is possible.  Both companies will be distributing the products.

 

HP and Ricoh Make Protective Gear with 3D Print Technology

In the aforementioned blog, Keypoint Intelligence discussed HP’s use of 3D printers to make face shields, hands-free door openers, and mask adjusters, as well as its plans to soon start making face masks and field ventilators. As of Thursday, more than 25,000 parts had been distributed to local hospitals.

 

The post also mentioned that Ricoh had offered to help produce ventilators in the United Kingdom. While no additional news has been released about this effort, Ricoh did announce it is 3D printing face shields for National Health Service workers in the UK.

 

The company is producing about 40,000 face shields a week, after having printed and assembled a prototype in less than 24 hours. The shields use polypropylene material that is flexible, lightweight, watertight, and fatigue-resistant. Local suppliers have provided materials like foam and elastic strapping to enhance the shields’ comfort; they were tested across a range of emergency department staff at The Royal London Hospital.

 

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The fact that industry OEMs have quickly mobilized to manufacture protective gear and health equipment to help healthcare workers, the public, and COVID-19 patients speaks to their agility and resourcefulness during this difficult time. While these companies may have ventured outside of their typical areas of specialty, their prototyping, testing, and mass-producing capabilities make them good candidates for producing this important equipment.

 

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