Tesla plans to convert its Buffalo, New York solar panel factory to produce medical ventilators, CEO Elon Musk said in a press release. Wednesday tweet†
“Giga New York will reopen for fan production as soon as humanly possible,” Musk tweeted. “We will do everything in our power to help the people of New York.”
Tesla makes the fans in collaboration with Medtronic. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak confirmed the relationship in a Wednesday interview with CNBC.
“We are opening up with other partners that have come forward,” Ishrak said. “Tesla is one that I think people have heard of. One of our fans will be made by them and they are on their way soon to try and make them.”
Ishrak added that “one of the products we’re making, which isn’t our main product right now, is one that’s perfectly suited, at least in some of these cases, that they’ll make.”
He said Tesla would build its manufacturing capabilities “in parallel as we focus on the product that is our largest product volume, which is the PB 980. We will do everything we can to help them.”
There are good reasons for Tesla to build fans from a fixed design rather than trying to design a fan from scratch. Fans are complex machines. Because patients’ lives depend on it, high reliability is essential. And while the FDA has relaxed regulations for fan manufacturers, new designs would require FDA approval. That takes time – probably too much time given the rapid spread of the virus.
Other car companies looking to help produce fans are also partnering with established industry players. GM is working to support fan manufacturer Ventec, using its extensive network of suppliers to help Ventec source parts that are in short supply. Ford plans to help GE Health expand its fan capacity.