GM begins mass production of ventilators, Honda begins component manufacturing

GM begins mass production of ventilators, Honda begins component manufacturing

Indiana automotive electronics plant quickly repurposed for medical production.

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Cleveland, Ohio – Two weeks after announcing plans to produce ventilators in Kokomo, Indiana, General Motors has moved into mass production of Ventec Life Systems’ V+Pro critical care ventilators. GM announced plans to produce the units, hours before the Trump Administration ordered it to do so under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Thousands of men and women at GM, Ventec, our suppliers and the Kokomo community have rallied to support their neighbors and the medical professionals on the front lines of this pandemic,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Everyone wants to help turn the tide and save lives. It is inspiring and humbling to see the passion and commitment people have put into this work.”

GM began working with Ventec in March, initially to boost the Washington state company’s manufacturing capacity by locating alternative sources for components, for example repurposing automotive electric motors and fans for ventilator use. That agreement led to GM producing full units in Indiana and the $489 million contract with HHS. The federal contract calls on GM to deliver 6,000 machines by the end of June and 30,000 by the end of August.

“Until there is a vaccine, critical care ventilators give medical professionals the tools they need to fight this pandemic and save lives,” said Ventec Life Systems CEO Chris Kiple. “This partnership is an historic effort and a great reminder of what can be accomplished with the power of American innovation and American manufacturing skill uniting together around a singular mission to save lives.”

More than 600 ventilators will be shipped this month, almost half the order will be filled by the end of June, and the full order will be completed by the end of August. GM has the capacity to build more ventilators after August if needed.

Several major automakers have begun producing medical gear or support equipment. Ford is working on ventilators and respirators in Michigan. GIE Media will host a webinar on April 22, 2020, to highlight how that deal came together and how Ford, General Electric, and a small Florida medical technology company teamed up to scale production from a handful of units per day to thousands per month by next week.

Also on Tuesday, Honda announced it has transformed space in Marysville, Ohio, to produce ventilator components to keep existing systems operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Honda’s Technical Development Center in Marysville will soon make diaphragm vacuum compressors, developed by Dynaflo Inc.

Pennsylvania-based Dynaflo designed the compressor for ambulance-based ventilators that need small, lightweight, simplified machines. Honda expects to build 10,000 compressors per month.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 20 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net