Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD


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The phrase in the title above is an old one, but never more true than now. Disasters, whether natural or manmade, are a time when humans drop barriers and work closely to help each other. Technology innovation always get a boost at times of adversity too. At the moment, many companies have dropped everything to produce equipment and components that are vital for the detection, prevention and treatment of coronavirus. The companies that have made the news are usually the larger ones, such as the car manufacturers that migrated capacity to manufacture thousands of ventilators. That effort is going on throughout the technology industry - from companies large and small. The need for ventilators and PPE equipment especially has seen companies devote design time, prioritise medical requirements and even work with competitors to ensure the supply chain remains intact and functional.

My inbox has been inundated with news from companies helping to fight coronavirus since the crisis started and I want to use this column to mention a few. Apologies if your company has been missed out, there is just too much material for a single page.

Engineers at Renesas have developed an open-source ventilator system reference design, using twenty of the company's ICs, that can be used quickly to design ready-to-assemble boards for medical ventilators.

Würth Elektronik Circuit Board Technology (CBT) has ramped up production of PCBs for intensive care and mobile ventilators to fulfil short notice orders from the German government from its production sites. The company's three German facilities can produce PCBs in a wide range of technologies.

Power management company Eaton has used its additive manufacturing capability to develop a four-inch touchless tool, which resembles a plastic wrench, to help medical workers avoid contact with surfaces. The company moved from concept to production of the tool in only a few days. TI, Eaton and Nexteer have also announced that they are 3D printing face shields for medical staff.

Analog Devices will analyse its order backlog each day to ensure customers who are manufacturers of critical medical equipment are prioritised. The company will also dedicate manufacturing lines to increase production of healthcare components. Similarly, CUI Devices will prioritise orders and expedite free product samples to organizations designing medical equipment for the COVID-19 crisis. It will also work closely with its manufacturing facilities and distribution partners worldwide to ensure availability of its product ranges to meet demands. Maxim has accelerated the production of its medical technologies to address increased customer need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure the integrity of the global supply chain, RS Components/Allied Electronics & Automation has said it will support other distributors and help with fulfilment. This co-operation in the distribution channel will become more important the supply chain comes under increasing strain.