Festo in the fight against Covid-19
From the first day onwards, Festo has taken its social mandate of alleviating the Corona crisis very seriously and has launched several focused support projects, such as the development of an emergency respiratory ventilator, support in the production of protective facemasks and the installation of an emergency hospital. Moreover, the LifeTech business field offers an excellent range of components for laboratory automation and for patient care devices. Along with the medical sector, it is also important to Festo to keep production stable on a global scale in systemically relevant areas.
“Like many other companies, on 13th March we too sent our employees home to work from there until further notice,” said Dipl.-Ing. Dr Oliver Jung h.c. “There were two questions that preoccupied us: Firstly, how can we as a systemically relevant component supplier for the beverage, food and pharmaceutical industries maintain our production processes? And secondly, how can we provide support?” Jung added.
Development emergency respirator
A specially constituted team of developers at Festo has developed an emergency respirator. Working from home and in close cooperation with hospital doctors, within only a few weeks they realised the prototype of a fully functional respirator that operates on the basis of digital pneumatics. The emergency respirator is technically fully developed, but has not yet been given approval as a medical device. In Germany special approval for emergency use would be possible, because the Medical Device Directive allows simplified approval of devices in the event of disaster. They are then made available to the clinics through the authorities, and are removed from circulation once the disaster situation has ended. Fortunately, at the moment it seems that this emergency will not occur in Germany; but the device could be made ready for series production relatively quickly in case of a second wave of infection. Through its national companies, Festo is also making this concept available to its customers and, on an international scale, to authorities that would like to manufacture the device in series production. The first specific enquiries have already been received from India. While Festo does not produce respirators itself, it provides certified manufacturers with a number of components that are suitable for installation in ventilators. The company has received numerous enquiries about these components from customers in Germany and abroad. Festo is thus one of the main suppliers of these components, which will also be provided to developing countries.
Mobile automated mask production
In addition to the emergency respirator, Festo is also a supplier and technical consultant to the Carola project for the machinery producer Mikron, enabling local production of protective facemasks in a mobile freight container. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these masks are still in short supply. This situation will continue or even become more acute over the next few weeks and months, because most facemasks must currently be imported from abroad. Even with intact supply chains, delivery times amount to a number of months at present. On request, a production unit can be installed in a 20-foot sea freight container, where the raw material (polypropylene) delivered in rolls is processed into complete protective facemasks. The production capacity is around 50 masks per minute, corresponding to about two million masks per month. The great advantage: this unit is mobile, can operate immediately on location, is independent of imports and can be used over a long period in any crisis area. Festo is supplying electrical and pneumatic components and drives for this purpose, primarily from the core product range, which are available at any time.
Automation Solutions for Test-Labs
Global diagnostics enterprises and laboratories cannot meet the high demand for Covid-19 tests. At the beginning of a pandemic such as this, it is decisive to detect who has the virus in order to limit the spread among the population. In this phase, saliva-based PCR tests (virus tests) can help in enabling isolation procedures, reduce the basic reproduction number (R0) and slow down the transmission of the virus. “We offer automation solutions for typical test workflows, for instance the handling of sample tubes or the pipetting and dosing of liquids. In developing the components, we place emphasis on high throughput, precision and accuracy,” said Jung. Antibody test devices are also becoming increasingly important. For these compact mobile laboratory devices in doctors’ surgeries, hospitals etc., so-called point-of-care devices (POC), Festo provides valves and pressure regulators, for example. Large-scale testing can help employees in key positions to return to their places of work, protect a greater number of endangered people and ultimately put an end to the lockdown.
Components for emergency hospitals
A further project was the emergency hospital at the Messe Stuttgart trade fair site. About 320 patient cubicles were set up in Hall 9, where ambulant patients who can still breathe without assistance were provided with medical oxygen. Festo supported the “Malteser Hilfsdienst” assistance organization with setting up the cubicles and supplying the medical gas to the patients. Festo specially developed a supply system for the patients directly at the cubicles, with an appropriate connection to the supply circuit. A team of volunteers also took care of assembly at the site. The hospital was dismantled at the end of April, since the feared overcrowding of hospitals did not come about.
Stable production in systemically relevant areas
Along with the medical sector, it is also important for Festo to keep production in systemically relevant areas stable on a global scale. Another supply chain task force is leaving no stone unturned in maintaining production and logistics throughout the global network, and distributing capacities as necessary. “Our products are used for example in filling technology in the beverage industry, for packaging at food manufacturers, and also in cleaning units for hospitals and care facilities and in packaging technology for medication in the pharmaceutical industry”, said Jung.
Additional caption VEAE:
Precisely regulating air and inert gases: the new proportional valve VEAE with piezo technology from Festo. Whether it be for direct supply or for mixing gases – with its high flow rate of up to 100 l/min, the VEAE valve is ideally suited for use in mobile or stationary respiratory ventilators in outpatient care and in clinics. It reliably regulates the air flow.
Additional caption VTOE:
Festo offers automation solutions for typical test workflows; this includes dosing of liquids using the dispense head VTOE-8. The 8-channel dispense head allows precise dosing of various filling volumes and liquids with a high throughput, for example in microtiter plates.
Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 21,000 employees in over 250 branch offices in 61 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.07 billion in 2019. Each year around 8% of this turnover is invested in research and development.
In this learning company, 1.5% of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Yet training services are not only provided for Festo’s own staff – Festo Didactic SE also supplies basic and further training programmes in the field of automation technology for customers, students and trainees.