Some of UK manufacturing’s leading manufacturers, including Airbus and Vauxhall, have said they are planning to 3D print parts to meet the demand for as many as 20,000 ventilators in just two weeks, which was announced by the government yesterday (16 March).
The companies will use technical drawings produced by Innovate UK, with Vauxhall also offering its car plant at Ellesmere Port – which is currently closed until 27 March due to coronavirus fears – for assembly of the finished ventilators.
“We are experts at assembly and efficient mass production; we know how to process and we know how to make it lean,” Helen Foord, head of government relations at Vauxhall, told The Guardian. “We’ve offered our services as an assembly plant and we have 3D-printing capability at Ellesmere Port [car factory] too.”
Ellesmere Port’s paint shop is an ideal location for final assembly due to its controlled environment, which is also needed for the manufacture of medical supplies.
In addition, Tony Hague, CEO of PP Control & Automation and a member of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), has said that the group of Midlands-based engineering firms is on hand to offer skilled workers and any other support that may be needed.
“We spent all yesterday talking to medical device experts and some ventilator manufacturers and believe the best way UK industry can support them is to provide a skilled workforce with expertise to increase manufacturing capacity for electro-mechanical sub-assemblies and key elements, such as pumps, pneumatics and vacuums,” he said. “The MAN Group believe this is the easiest way to scale up and meet demand allowing the OEMs of ventilators to focus on the core task in hand, thus eliminating IP and potential approval processes applicable to medical devices. The UK has a great depth of manufacturers and suppliers, providing this service will allow the experts to continue to assemble with the additional support of a larger supply chain behind them.”