The world’s biggest car makers are being enlisted by their respective governments to make emergency medical equipment vital to treating and preventing coronavirus – however Australia does not have the same capacity since the end of local automotive manufacturing in 2017.
The announcements come after US President Donald Trump put the wartime Defense Production Act into action to aid the fight against coronavirus.
German car maker Volkswagen has joined US car giants Ford and General Motors, Japan’s Nissan and Italy’s Ferrari and Fiat group to expedite the manufacture and development of hospital ventilators and other devices to treat those impacted by COVID-19.
The Reuters news agency has reported that each car company has assembled a task force, was testing materials and checking with suppliers to find out how they can use 3D printing technology to help manufacture hospital ventilators and other life-saving equipment.
The 3D printing technology is normally used to make prototype parts from high strength plastic to check that a component fits when building a test vehicle from the ground up.
The same technology could also be used to make hospital ventilators in a fraction of the time as a fully manufactured one, however it would only have limited use before it would need to be discarded.
A statement issued by Volkswagen head office in Germany said in part: “Medical equipment is a new field for us. But as soon as we understand the requirements, and receive a blueprint, we can get started.”
The Reuters news agency said Volkswagen alone has more than 125 industrial 3D printers, was in close contact with governments and other authorities to assess needs.
General Motors, meanwhile, said it is working with Ventec Life Systems to enable the medical device manufacturer to build more ventilators.
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a media statement.
Germany’s BMW said: “The production of components using 3D printing technology is a possibility.”
Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson of Swedish brand Volvo told the Reuters news agency: “I think for the economy, we need to do something drastic, rather then trying half-hearted measures that drag on forever. We are seeing the effect from this coronavirus is increasing every day. There is a big difference between countries. Some have curfews, with restaurants and schools closed. In other countries there are less drastic measures. I just think we need to synchronise that more.”