Accentuate the Positive

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



Last month, PSD sent an e-newsletter touting the "Good Stuff" - a collection of good news in our industry. And I thought I'd share some of those positive vibes. Because we could all use a pick-me-up.

One of the very first feel-good stories in our new, quarantined reality came via the automotive space. COVID-19 created a sudden, desperate need for hospital ventilators, and since no one's driving their cars (or shopping for them), automakers have a whole lot of free time. And empty factories.

Tesla, GM, and Ford each offered up their factories to make ventilators in the event of a shortage. And with no end in sight (and no flattening of any curves), that shortage is coming.

Across the pond, the U.K. is already dangerously undersupplied - Downing Street pleaded that their stockpile of 8,175 ventilators isn't nearly enough, and Dyson (the vacuum people) answered the call. The British appliance company vowed to make 15,000 ventilators, 1/3 of which will be donated, and Dyson claimed their "CoVent" can be made "quickly, efficiently, and at volume."

Meanwhile, Digi-Key is attacking the shortage from a different direction - the component distributor is teaming up with the University of Minnesota to make parts for low-cost respirators. The U of M design dusts off a vintage '60s design and combines it with Digi-Key parts to make a ventilator that runs a mere $1,500 (vs. existing price tags of anywhere from $3,000 to $13,000).

Of course, any ventilator is only as good as its component parts, and Infineon is proud to provide the power semiconductors that reliably and efficiently control the ventilator motors. According to Dr. Helmut Gassel, Member of the Management Board and CMO Infineon Technologies AG, his company contributes around 38 million power semiconductors for producing these vital medical devices.

Maxim Integrated Products and Hirose Electric are ramping up existing production to meet the unprecedented worldwide demand for lifesaving medical technologies. Hirose was tasked with increasing connector output and lowering lead times of connectors, while Maxim's devices are used in medical equipment such as virus detection devices, ultrasounds, analytical/laboratory equipment, ventilators, patient remote monitoring devices, and intravenous blood monitors.

Similarly, CUI Devices is prioritizing orders and expediting free product samples to OEMs, makers, volunteers, and organizations designing medical equipment key to fighting COVID-19.

But ventilators aren't the only medical devices in short supply. Our nurses - and other frontline caregivers - are being asked to perform miracles without sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) like face shields.

Eaton is partnering with Cleveland's Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) to rapidly develop face shields for hospitals. The first batch of 3D-printed devices was donated to hospitals in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. On a similar note, Texas Instruments is part of a growing movement worldwide to utilize 3D printing for medical gear and supplies - including masks, face shields and testing swabs.

And finally, I want to give a huge shout-out to the students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who worked towards fabricating high-quality masks and face shields using mylar, adhesive foam and elastic ribbon for local hospitals Halifax Health and AdventHealth.

Keep your chin (and spirits) up and stay safe!