In an effort to help fight COVID-19, military engineers and car manufacturers are partnering with the U.K. Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to help assemble lifesaving ventilators. Currently, the NHS has a total of 5,900 ventilators, but health minister Matt Hancock says the country requires thousands more. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed hope that production of ventilators by the auto industry could begin within two weeks.
However, manufacturing medical equipment comes with a particular set of challenges, including complicated designs, limited access to parts, and strict testing regulations. PVMI member Matthias Holweg warns that car manufacturers may find it difficult to procure parts, given the fact that many electrical components come from China, where some provinces are still in lockdown. Despite these challenges, Holweg remains optimistic, suggesting that car manufacturers will not need to invest in new equipment or use main assembly lines for ventilator production. Large manufacturers have “general-purpose equipment that they could use for [ventilation production],” he notes, suggesting that some manufacturers could already begin production by making the metal chassis for the ventilators.