As the spread of coronavirus continues around the world and the death toll grows, companies are looking at what they do and how this can be repurposed to help. We have already seen Formula 1 teams making ventilators and exhibition centres transformed into hospitals. Now the automotive industry is looking to see what it can do to help fight the virus.

Additive manufacturing processes

Already, companies such as Mercedes, Ford and Toyota have said they are looking to produce medical components that are urgently needed to help with patients suffering from Covid-19.

In North America, Toyota has started to mass-produce 3D printed face shields at the start of April with batches being sent to hospitals across Texas, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.

The company is also looking at their additive manufacturing processes to see if they can make protective masks and are searching for companies to partner with to supply the filters.

Another plan is to create much-needed ventilators and respirators so that hospitals can increase their existing capacity as the number of cases increase. Toyota has already donated supplies of things such as masks, safety glasses, shoe and boot covers, gloves and cotton swabs to hospitals and first responders.

Scaling production

Ford has already laid out plans to make 100,000 face shields a week and will be using their in-house 3D printing capabilities to help produce more components that are needed for PPE or personal protective equipment.

The company is working with GE Healthcare to create a third party ventilator and has an ambitious plan to make 50,000 units in 100 days then another 30,000 a month after that. Ford will scale the production while GE Healthcare will license a design from a private firm and provide clinical expertise to the Ford staff.

3D printed medical equipment

Mercedes Benz has offered to make medical equipment with 3D printing. The company says that with years’ experience and teams who are already adept at using the equipment they are well placed to make medical devices.

Initially, they are working with a state government in Germany to produce equipment as it is needed and will widen the scope once tests have confirmed the product is working.

The company already create some 150,000 plastic and metal components a year and use a range of techniques including selective laser sintering and fused deposition modelling. Normally this type of process is used for prototype construction as well as to make small series production for their special edition cars. But in these difficult times, they and other automotive companies are looking at their high tech equipment in a new light – as to how it can help combat the spread of coronavirus or help those fighting it.