Making the shift from cars to ventilators

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 31 Mar 2020

It's a movement that's taking shape all over the world and also in India. The automotive industry, which is known to have some of the best engineering brains in the world and high-quality manufacturing practices, has joined forces with healthcar providers to fight Covid 19.

Here's taking a close look at how Spanish carmaker SEAT is collaborating with the healthcare system by making automated ventilators with adapted windscreen wiper motors. Spain is one of the countries which has been badly impacted impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Producing automated ventilators
The SEAT Leon line at the Martorell plant, near Barcelona, is almost unrecognisable. Today, cars are no longer being made; instead, automated ventilators are being produced to collaborate with the healthcare system in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Going from producing cars to ventilators in record time is the result of the intense work of many SEAT employees and a very powerful driving force: solidarity. “The motivation of everyone participating in this project is that with our know-how we can mass-produce equipment that will save lives,” explains Nicolás Mora from the Production area of SEAT Martorell.

Since the beginning of the crisis caused by COVID-19, several initiatives were launched at SEAT to combat the spread of the virus. Specifically, to produce material and devices in high demand by hospitals, such as ventilators. A team of engineers diligently set about designing several prototypes, 13 in all, until the definitive model was produced. 

The key lies in the windscreen wiper
The project is taking shape with gears printed at SEAT, gearbox shafts and the adapted motor of a windscreen wiper. The aim was to make ventilators of the highest quality, and the result is the OxyGEN. Designed in collaboration with Protofy.XYZ, they are being assembled at the SEAT facilities.

Nearly 150 employees from different areas have changed their usual workstation to put together the ventilators where parts of the SEAT Leon used to be assembled.

“Taking an assembly line that manufactures sub-frames, a car part, and adapting it to make ventilators has been a lengthy, difficult job involving many areas of the company, and we managed to do it in the record time of one week,” says Sergio Arreciado from the Process Engineering area of SEAT. Each ventilator has more than 80 electronic and mechanical components and undergoes a thorough quality control with ultraviolet light sterilisation.

Prolonged testing underway
A ventilator is currently undergoing prolonged testing as part of the approval process. Meanwhile, the line continues to operate thanks to many employees who have worked tirelessly on this project. “Just knowing that we’ve tried to help save a life makes all this work we’ve done worthwhile,” says Francesc Sabaté of R&D at SEAT.

Collaborative effort
SEAT says the result of this project has been possible thanks to the solidarity of its employees and the collaboration of many companies (listed below) and the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Healthcare Products.

Collaborating companies and entities
University of Barcelona
Recam Laser
Doga Motors
Luz Negra

Mahindra & Mahindra begins manufacturing face shields at Mumbai plant, low-cost ventilator coming up