VMAC of Nanaimo has fabricated parts, now undergoing testing in the U.S., for a low-cost prototype ventilator designed at the University of Minnesota. (Photo courtesy VMAC)

Nanaimo air compressor business helps manufacture parts for COVID-19 fight

VMAC has crafted parts now being tested in prototype ventilator created at University of Minnesota

A Nanaimo manufacturing company has joined ranks with those across Canada fighting the fallout of the coronavirus.

VMAC, renowned for its vehicle mounted air compressors, has fabricated components for ventilators currently being tested in the U.S., and could also soon be programming its 3-D printers to create plastic frames for face shields used in local hospitals.

Tod Gilbert, VMAC president, said the company reached out to various levels of government and other groups in Canada and internationally to see what kind of services and support it could offer to other manufacturers and research organizations.

“We’re doing a little bit, but it’s not a major thing. That’s one thing I just want to say off the top. I definitely don’t want it to appear like we’re trying to promote in this difficult situation…” Gilbert said. “We’re not saving the world here. We’re just doing what we can.”

VMAC got in contact with the University of Minnesota, where Dr. Stephen Richards, anesthesiology fellow, partnered with the university’s medical device centre – part of the UMN’s College of Science and Engineering – to create prototypes for a low-cost mechanical ventilator designed to be simple and cheap to manufacture and easily deployable. Two prototypes, now called the coventor, according to the university’s website, have tested successfully.

“We’ve made two small batches of parts … and overnighted them to [UMN] so they’re conducting tests,” Gilbert said. “They’re doing tests to try and get rapid FDA approval of it.”

He said he’d heard the tests are going well and what VMAC has asked, in return, is that it get a copy of the finalized design of the ventilators, which the university will make open-source.

“So that if things went totally sideways here, we could make as much as we can, as far as parts,” Gilbert said. “This is not something that’s approved by the Canadian medical system yet. As you can appreciate, if the situation does get dire, requirements will get lower, as far as testing and all the rest of it, so we just want to be ready if it comes to that. Hopefully, it’s not needed.”

The company has 3-D printers which can churn out a few plastic parts, such as face shield frames, but its capability to fabricate metal parts on its computerized lathes is where VMAC excels when it comes to mass production. Gilbert said, running its lathes semi-automated, VMAC could produce thousands of metal sub-components for devices daily.

He said the morning of April 1 that VMAC hasn’t started production of any 3-D printed parts yet, but hoped to get the files to start printing face shield frames that day.

The company has also raided its container of emergency supplies, which included hand sanitizer and about 100 N95 masks, which were donated to local hospitals, along with the company’s spare face shields.

Gilbert said VMAC has been working through Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Canadian government’s online procurement page at http://buyandsell.gc.ca and with other government connections, including Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly.

“It’s unfortunate, the conditions that are creating this, but it’s nice to see that people are beyond political and country and city lines,” Gilbert said. “We’re all in it together and offers of support – I think the federal government announced they had over 3,000 manufacturing companies offer support – it’s unbelievable.”

READ ALSO: Vancouver Island’s ‘Project Draw Breath’ expands and diversifies to battle pandemic



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Employees in VMAC’s machine shop where small components have been milled and sent to the U.S. for testing in a prototype ventilator developed at the University of Minnesota. (Photo courtesy VMAC)

VMAC of Nanaimo. (CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin)

Just Posted

Lithium-ion battery fire damages suite in Nanaimo

One man displaced from home after battery for radio-controlled toy bursts into flame while charging

Nanaimo pianist and future doctor honoured for ‘excellence in culture’

Devon Joiner is among this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners

Volunteers on Vancouver Island checking in on seniors during pandemic

United Way reports 2,600 phone check-ins and 1,300 ‘virtual visits’

Nanaimo mayor, in his work as a lawyer, named in lawsuit over client’s will

Leonard Krog administrator of an estate being challenged under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act

B.C. Ferries says Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay sailings filling up fast

Tsawwassen-Duke Point may be a better alternative between June 4 and 7, says ferry corporation

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Beefs & Bouquets, June 3

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Most Read