Manufacturers Band Together to Supply Ventilators Due to Extreme Shortages

March 27, 2020 by Hana Othman

There is a global shortage for ventilators—a critical piece of medical equipment that hospitals require to treat COVID-19 patients.

In response to a national demand for ventilators by hospitals, several manufacturers and corporations have responded to the call by developing prototype ventilators and supplying both respirators and face masks, which are in dire need by medical staff. 


How Manufacturers Have Responded to the Shortage

Ford most recently announced that it is working alongside 3M and General Electric to speed up the production of ventilators and respirators for healthcare workers. The car manufacturer is reportedly assisting 3M with increasing the output of powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) masks. 

The partnership hopes to develop a new ventilator design based on off-the-shelf parts to prioritize speed. Ford claims that it could help 3M boost production of the new ventilator significantly with their current resources—such as portable battery packs and air filters. 


A prototype for a ventilator developed by Ford.

A prototype of the PAPR mask that Ford is working on with 3M for medical workers. Image used courtesy of Ford's Mike Levine via Twitter


Partnerships Between Tech Manufacturers and Medical Suppliers  

Tesla has also promised to contribute to the cause—which was demonstrated by Elon Musk delivering a little over 1,000 overstock respirators to California from China, where they were purchased. 

The CEO also announced that Tesla would be reopening its Gigafactory 2 in New York to produce ventilators and other critical medical equipment. 

Medical supply and service company Medtronic confirmed that they have already started to work with Tesla teams at the company’s Fremont factory. The combined teams from both Medtronic and Tesla will be developing different models and types of ventilators to meet the specific needs of patients and medical staff. 

There are expected to be more advanced ventilator models to utilize in severe cases as well as a base model that can be produced at high volume. It’s reported that Tesla would be specifically responsible for manufacturing the base model. 


Ford's Dave Jacek wearing a face shield.

Ford's Dave Jacek, wearing a prototype of a 3D-printed medical face shield. Image used courtesy of Ford

Will the Contributions From Manufacturers Be Enough?

With the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., there is the undeniable reality that medical supplies, such as ventilators, would be in short supply and—what seems to be the case for the very near future—eventually exhausted. 

There is a serious concern that with the reliance of sourcing new supplies from private sector companies, U.S. medical facilities and institutions would not be prepped in time for an anticipated spike of critically-ill patients in the coming weeks. Since the crisis is on a national level, it's difficult to address the needs of numerous states at the same time. 

The U.S. is predicted to need up to a million ventilators over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak. With hospitals already reporting that they are on the verge of running out of supplies, it's clear that an additional measure must be taken to relieve the supply shortage.

Especially one that addresses the issue of manufacturers procuring components to develop a large volume of ventilators. As it is now, hospitals in hard-hit cities like New York will be needing ventilators in weeks, not months.