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Covid-19: Aerospace companies to lead national ventilator effort

20 March 2020
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Aerospace companies are being drafted in to help design and build ventilators to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic, based on their high-technology capabilities such as 3D printing. Source: Getty Images/AzmanL

Leading aerospace companies have responded to the UK government's call to develop and build ventilators to help cope with the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Both Airbus and GKN confirmed to Jane's on 19 March that they will join other aerospace and automotive companies to develop and build a ventilator prototype in the coming days, ahead of large-scale production within a month. Other aerospace companies named at this stage comprise Meggitt (prime contractor), Thales, and Renishaw, while McLaren and Nissan are to lead two separate consortia from the automotive sector.

"These are unprecedented times and Airbus will help where it can. Our engineers and technology teams in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK are investigating the practicalities of how we might best support the design, manufacturing, and assembly of critical medical equipment," Airbus told Jane's , while GKN noted, "We are actively engaged in the discussions and we are fully prepared to support wherever our advanced manufacturing capabilities in the UK can assist." The other participants could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Jane's understands that the aerospace companies involved in the effort will not necessarily build the ventilators themselves, but will support the design, manufacturing, and assembly of components using their industrial skills and facilities.

According to the Financial Times (FT) which first reported the development, the three consortia aim to manufacture 5,000 ventilators urgently, with a further 30,000 to follow in time. The Birmingham-based research centre High Value Manufacturing Catapult is to lead the overall effort, which is being backed by the UK government's business ministry.

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