1630: Stratasys ramps up 3D printing of PPE

Additive manufacturing specialist, Stratasys, has ramped up printing capacity to help with the coronavirus pandemic. The initial focus is on providing thousands of disposable face shields for use by medical personnel.

In the United States, Stratasys has set an initial goal of producing 5,000 face shields by Friday, March 27, at no cost to the recipients. This includes both a 3D-printed frame and a clear plastic shield that covers the entire face. The company will have the ability to scale to an even faster rate of production.

Any 3D printing shop that wishes to help print plastic frames, can fill out an online form (https://go.stratasys.com/lp-stratasys-helps.html) to be invited to join the effort. The company is also posting the full face shield printing and assembly instructions by Monday, Mar. 23 on its COVID-19 response page.

“We are humbled by the opportunity to help. We see additive manufacturing as an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 global epidemic,” said Stratasys CEO Yoav Zeif. “The strengths of 3D printing – be anywhere, print virtually anything, adapt on the fly – make it a capability for helping address shortages of parts related to shields, masks, and ventilators, among other things. Our workforce and partners are prepared to work around the clock to meet the need for 3D printers, materials, including biocompatible materials, and 3D-printed parts.”

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1445: Composites company to reconfigure to help ventilator production

Composites and advanced materials precision slitting company, Bindatex, has reconfigured its production to begin die cutting discs for filters to assist with the urgent production of much needed, life-saving ventilators for the NHS. At present, Bindatex are working with their customers, manufacturing the parts, but are also able to support other manufacturers by providing the filters.

While the company has pledged a section of its workforce, production capacity and machinery to the production of ventilators to fight this virus, Bindatex is still delivering for its usual customers, by increasing its production rate.

Chris Lever, managing director, said: “As production ramps up for the essential parts for these ventilators, we have added extra capacity to fulfil current orders whilst this emergency work continues. We will continue to support manufacturing of ventilators during these unprecedented times.”

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1300: Funding specialists offers free coronavirus advice

ABGI, the UK’s leading innovation funding specialists, has announced it is now offering free advice and support on R&D tax relief claims to companies investigating ways of combatting the coronavirus to meet the nation’s current healthcare needs.

The move comes after the UK Government called on manufacturers to look into switching their production capabilities to produce much-needed ventilators for UK hospitals, personal protective equipment for NHS workers, virus testing kits and hand sanitisers to meet the unprecedented demand.

Last week, Aberdeenshire-based brewers BrewDog began making hand sanitiser, which it promised to give away for free to those who need it. Meanwhile UK manufacturers including Vauxhall and Airbus are planning to 3D-print parts for ventilators.

For some manufacturers, adapting production processes will require some initial R&D expenditure. To help support this activity, ABGI will offer its services completely free of charge to ensure those making this investment to help tackle the current public health crisis can also secure maximum qualifying tax relief from the process.

This includes providing free consultancy on incentives available to make the switch, reviewing a manufacturer’s activity plan to ensure it will qualify for R&D tax relief, and developing and submitting their claim to HMRC.

Scott Henderson, Chief Executive of ABGI UK, commented: “As BrewDog and other manufacturing businesses have shown, companies are prepared to step forward as the Covid-19 outbreak grips the UK.

“As an advisory business, we also have expertise and experience which can help in this battle by making adaptation easier and more cost effective for those manufacturers. We are keen to offer our expertise completely free of charge and without obligation to these companies. This includes helping them identify the available R&D incentives to assist with production transition, assessing their eligibility, and handling their claim to ensure they secure all the tax relief they are entitled to."

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0900: Industry comments on news that government is to pay 80% of wages

Adam Cunningham, Chairman of the Manufacturing Assembly Network and CEO of Muller Holdings, said: "There will be many extremely relieved business owners and employees tonight following Rishi Sunak’s announcement.

My initial reaction is that this is exactly what is required to ensure businesses can retain their most valuable asset…their workforce, covering the next three months initially, with the possibility of extending the support if required.

80% payment (up to £2500) should ensure the vast majority of employees can continue to pay their essential bills and feed their families, two crucial elements of everyday life. I’m also pleasantly surprised to see that this has been backdated to March 1st, covering people that may have already been laid off.

We await further guidance and information to be published, so, as employers, we can understand the detail in full, but it does sound comprehensive, including covering employees on zero-hour contracts.

Like all Government support, speed will be of the essence and the money will need to find its way to the right people at the right time.

Increasing the business interruption loan interest-free period to 12 months and postponing VAT payments to the end of June will give manufacturers some flexibility and breathing space to use their cash where it is needed.

Support for the lower paid and those on universal credit should also be applauded, as the Chancellor has done an excellent job in ensuring those in need will be protected during this extremely difficult period.

In my opinion, the Government has done what it needed to do and, as manufacturers, we will do our bit, especially in seeking innovative ways where we can support the national bid for more ventilators.”

Peter Webb, Managing Director at Electronic Temperature Instruments (ETI), the UK’s largest digital thermometer manufacturer specialising in the food & drink industry, added: "Regardless of the measures announced, now isn’t the time for political warfare. However, these were incredible commitments made by the Chancellor. This clear carefully planned economic response had to be drastic. There was no choice. We are in a sink or swim situation. For us at ETI, we have a number of vulnerable employees with underlying health problems not often visible to their peers, in addition to pregnant employees as well. Therefore we have absolutely no hesitation, or indeed a choice, other than to send them home for 12 weeks.

“These new measures had to be about paying people and keeping them in work. I feel the Chancellor and government have done all they can up to this point. Let’s make no mistake about it, for many businesses and industries, these are desperate times. Therefore desperate and quite simply unheard of measures were required. I applaud them for stepping in, or perhaps stepping up, to help pay wages with the aim of saving as many jobs and livelihoods as possible. Any employer in the country will be eligible for the new wage subsidy scheme and this at least gives them a platform on which to slowly pick themselves up off the canvas. Employers will also be able to contact HMRC for government grants, which will cover 80% of salaries up to £2,500 per month and from Monday the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme will be interest-free for 12 months, instead of the proposed six. Additionally, no business will pay VAT until June and all businesses will have until the end of the year to pay those bills. This is all welcome respite for UK business.

“With these measures in place, now is the time for businesses of all sizes to take a figurative step back and make a plan that reflects their entrepreneurial spirit, the one which made their dreams become a reality in the first place and will ignite the fire as they come out of the other side of this unprecedented crisis.”