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Call for laser processing firms to help manufacture medical devices in fight against Covid-19

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In the UK, the Photonics Leadership Group has issued a call for businesses that can support in the supply of ventilators and components to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The group singled out firms with expertise in laser-based materials processing, cutting, welding, marking and additive manufacturing as being particularly relevant.

On Monday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson also spoke to over sixty leading UK manufacturers, including Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce, to call on them to help the UK step up production of vital medical equipment for tackling Covid-19.

Blueprints of the equipment were also sent to the manufacturing firms.

The PM asked manufacturers to rise to this immediate challenge by offering skills and expertise as well as manufacturing the components themselves. Businesses can get involved in any part of the process: design, procurement, assembly, testing, and shipping.

A full list of the required equipment and skills, in addition to an application form to offer assistance, can be found at: https://ventilator.herokuapp.com/. Businesses can also call the BEIS Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565.

While the UK's National Health Service (NHS) has 5,900 ventilators, it could need as many as 20,000 should a worst-case scenario for the spread of Covid-19 happen.

The UK's Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) will also be working with Innovate UK and other organisations to try and connect firms able to support the UK's challenges regarding Covid-19, including the rapid scaling up of the manufacture of ventilators and other medical supplies.

Italian startup 3D-prints ventilator valves to help address shortage due to Covid-19

Earlier this week it was reported that an Italian 3D-printing startup, Isinnova, used its equipment to help design and manufacture working ventilllator valves for a local hospital, which were swiftly deployed in the respiratory equipment of 10 admitted patients.

Italian 3D-printing startup Isinnova, used its equipment to manufacture working ventilllator valves when a local hospital realised they were running out. Credit: Cristian Fracassi.

The valve, which usually costs around $11,000, was 3D-printed for just $1. 

However, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa, Isinnova may now be facing legal action from the manufacturer of the original part.

Isinnova reportedly contacted the manufacturer of the valves for their blueprints, however the company allegedly declined the request and threatened to sue for patent infringement. The startup chose to move ahead despite this, and instead measured the dimensions of the original valves and produced three different versions that it could then test.

‘There were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period,' Isinnova founder & CEO Cristian Fracassi told news outlet TPI. 'We have no intention of profiting from this situation. We are not going to use the designs or product beyond the strict need that forced us to act.'

Can other new technologies help? 

Meanwhile, elsewhere across Europe, Blumorpho, together with EuroScan have sent out a call for solutions that can help citizens and health organisations in the fight against Covid-19. The call is to collect information on emerging technologies and innovations that could contribute to the treatment, testing, surveillance or other aspects of the coronavirus epidemic.

Blumorpho is an industrial innovation partner to various companies, including Bosch.

Information received from the call will be evaluated by the members of EuroScan, mainly staff from national authorities or universities, and published in its database. New technologies will be also published on the Blumorpho website.

How have event organisers responded to Covid-19?

The KTN, along with many other event organisers and companies, will be moving the majority of its events and meetings online.

Such measures are being taken following numerous key industry events having to be cancelled due to Covid-19, including LASYS, AKL and Laser World of Photonics China, in addition to other key photonics events.

SPIE, the optical society, will be also be running its Defence and Commercial Sensing, and Smart Structures and Non-destructive Evaluation conferences in a digital format. It will also hold SPIE Photonics Europe as a digital show from 6 to 10 April. Over those days, those registered will be able to watch and listen to recorded presentations on-demand and submit written questions. Authors will be asked to check in periodically and respond to questions. Registration fees for the original Photonics Europe technical programme and short courses will be refunded, SPIE said.

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