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VW weighs using 3D printers to produce ventilators

March 21, 2020

Volkswagen said it had created a task force to look into producing medical equipment to help in the fight against coronavirus. The carmaker has already pledged to give its own protective face masks to health workers.

A backlit person holds a oxygen mask
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Hirschberger

German automaker Volkswagen (VW) said on Friday that it would contribute to global efforts to use 3D printing for the production of hospital ventilators, in the fight to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Governments around the world have sought to enlist automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Ferrari and Nissan, to ramp up production of ventilators and other medical equipment that face shortages and are critical to saving lives.

VW said in a statement that a task force was exploring how to use 3D printing to help manufacture ventilators.

The Wolfsburg-based firm currently has more than 125 industrial 3D printers and is in close cooperation with governments and other authorities to assess needs, a spokesman said.

"Medical equipment is a new field for us. But as soon as we understand the requirements, and receive a blueprint, we can get started," Volkswagen said.

Read more: The coronavirus economy: Switching production for the greater good

The company also pledged to donate protective face masks to clinics, health authorities and municipal authorities, in an agreement made with German Health Minister Jens Spahn.

The protective masks would come from VW's own stock, which auto employees use for protection against harmful vapors.

Plants close worldwide

Volkswagen and other German auto manufacturers are already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus, idling their European plants for the next few weeks.

VW announced on Friday that it would temporarily close its factories in Mexico in a bid to preserve public health, amid growing worries over the spread of the coronavirus in that country.

A person putting together a VW car
Carmarkers have sent home works amid fears of spreading the coronavirusImage: picture-alliance/AP Images/J. Meyer

Read more: Coronavirus compounds problems for German carmakers

The company said that slowing demand and the risk of shortages of parts were also a factor in the decision to suspend production in Mexico's factories.

Factories in the US were also closed temporarily, as the virus began to take hold there, while production in Brazil was also halted.

jcg/sms (Reuters,dpa)

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