Car manufacturer offers to make ventilators
A car manufacturing business that used to build performance versions of the Commodore is one of hundreds of Australian businesses that have signed up to fight against the coronavirus.
Walkinshaw Automotive Group, famous for building Bathurst-winning Commodores, has offered to manufacture ventilators using rapid prototype 3D printing technology.
It joins companies ranging from alcohol distillers ready to produce hand sanitiser to manufacturers offering to build masks and ventilators.
All have listed capabilities with a COVID-19 response register developed by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC).
AMGC managing director Jens Goennemann said the response shows businesses are willing to help in any way they can.
"The Australian manufacturing sector has a significant role to play as we navigate our way through this challenging time, and an equally important role in Australia's recovery," Dr Goennemann said.
"Together, as a nation, we will emerge from this resilient, stronger, and more self-sufficient than ever before."
More than 500 businesses signed up to render assistance within 24 hours of the AMGC's register going live.
Businesses can report manufacturing expertise, material stocks, individual skills and other factors that could help address the crisis.
Walkinshaw Automotive currently converts massive American pick-up trucks to right-hand drive for the Australian market, but is ready to down tools and produce medical equipment if needed.
Ryan Walkinshaw, son of former F1 team owner Tom, says his company has opened talks with the Victorian Government about producing medical equipment such as ventilators which may be in short supply as the pandemic develops.
"We feel that we can help reduce the impact of a serious health crisis," Mr Walkinshaw said.
"That ranges from ideas such as building ventilators through a partnership with a current manufacturer, through trying to design, engineer and build our own makeshift ventilators.
"We're also exploring another solution of working with a partner in Australia on designing our own ventilator … if there is a serious shortage of ventilators further down the track I'm sure there would be a large proportion of people who, rather than having no ventilator, would have a more agricultural one."
Mr Walkinshaw said his staff are ideally placed to render manufacturing assistance.
The business - which includes Holden Special Vehicles, the Walkinshaw Andretti United race team, New Age Caravans and the American Special Vehicles business which converts US-made Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram trucks for use on local roads - has research and development experience, along with access to 3D printing, metalwork, plastic moulding, electrical expertise and fabric trim production.
"We're one of the largest manufacturing businesses in Australia, and certainly one of the most capable," Walkinshaw said.
"We're merely putting our hand up, letting the government - local, Victorian and federal - know what we're capable of doing.
"It may be ventilators, it may be face masks, it may be medical gowns, it may be testing equipment, it may be mobile testing stations which we can manufacture with our caravan business.
"We have been contacted, and we are just going through that process now with the Victorian government."
Representatives of the Victorian Government's health and innovation departments were contacted for comment.
Originally published as Car manufacturer offers to make ventilators