Covid-19, Engineering & Technology, Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Innovations to combat the Domino Effect due to COVID19

Introduction:

“The world is going through a period of crisis, but whether we look at it as a crisis or as an opportunity to reshape our thinking, depends on us. So use this period as a lesson on how to live life with a concern for all of humankind.”― Abhijit Naskar. He is neuroscientists, an international bestselling author and an advocate of psychological wellbeing and global unity. The world is looking for a breakthrough in the fight against corona virus, and we all have concerns for the welfare of the people surrounding us. To protect ourselves against the virus and to find a vaccine, require a free flow of information and ideas to be exchanged across the borders which is being disturbed as countries go into lockdown. All the engineering minds should come up with the new innovations which can unlock an alternative way to accelerate the fight at this moment. Here, Innovations associated to Mechanical Engineering in some specific areas will be discussed to combat the ‘Domino Effect’ of COVID 19.

Overcome supply chain shortage and temporary halts in production:

The corona virus pandemic forced lock down in Asia over February and March, paralyzing the economic activities across the continent as factories shut bringing manufacturing to a halt. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an economic indicator which is calculated by doing the monthly surveys to private sectors. PMI for India has reached to 51.8 from 54.5 in March. This has been observed that the outbreak impacted the supply-side of the sector. The COVID 19 causes unexpected  challenges to mechanical and plant engineering companies from shortage in supply chain to temporary halts in production. Mechanical innovations must be there to minimize the risk and develop strategies for emerging from this turmoil condition to be stronger and fitter for the future. Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) is forecasting a 5% drop in production in 2020.  In manufacturing industries, key challenges in the areas of cost structure, business models and performance culture. Business strategies differ depending on the type of company. Four parameters are there for identifying a company i.e. size, market, segment and technology focus. Giant industries must shatter the business units with high risk profile and invest in current growth areas and consider partnerships for automation solutions and digital services. The smallest player of the industries must tie up with large suppliers to scale up their businesses. This is the fact that in this scenario, mechanical engineering solutions won’t provide direct tools to combat the effect of COVID 19 but in the long run, solutions will help Industries to grow further to accelerate the fight.

To overcome the supply chain shortage and temporary halts in production, few points are identified from the point of view of Mechanical Engineering production and operation management.

 

  • Dismantle business units with high risk profile.
  • Invest in existing growth areas.
  • Aim for a drift overhead and indirect costs.
  • Drive digitalization and industrial automation in core market.
  • Sell off non-core units if they drive complexity.
  • Push for interchangeable parts and components.
  • Invest in future technology.
  • Build partnership for automation and digital services.
  • Ensure technological dominance to protect niche focus.
  • Tie up with large suppliers to scale up the business.

 

Surviving in this lock-down period must be the first priority but we should keep it in our mind that when the COVID19 crisis will pass, the challenges that the industries have faced in recent times will continue. Planning for long term, having a clear target and adopting future technologies will ensure that the industries lay a solid foundation for life after this lock down period.

Development of devices and protective gears using Mechanical Engineering innovations:

With the number of COVID19 cases rising in the world, the mechanical engineers, professors and researchers have extended their hands to develop newer technologies to fight against the domino effect of COVID19. Few are discussed here.

Face Shield: Emory and Georgia Tech developed face shields and supplied to the local medical communities which are made by 3D printed technology. These face shields help the medical workers from splashes and increase the usage time of soft respirators. To increase the production beyond the parent institute, the researchers have made a simple design to be shared and manufactured by others by using either 3D printed technology or Laser Beam Machining process.“The Georgia Tech mechanical engineering team is working to modify open source face shield designs so they can be manufactured in high volumes for the rapid response environment that COVID-19 requires,” said Christopher Saldana, an associate professor in the Woodruff School.

3D printed face shield

Portable Ventilators: IIT, Kanpur is developing portable ventilators to give support to medical infrastructure. The cost of those PVs is lesser than the market price. Professors are claiming that a commercial PV costs around 4 lakhs whereas they will be supplying at only 70,000 per piece. Nikhil Kurule and Harshit Rathore, two IIT Kanpur graduates started their entrepreneurship activities two years back, they run a start up called “Nocca Robotics”. They have developed a prototype for the portable ventilator with the help of few doctors from NICS, Bangalore which has got demand of 1000 pieces within a month. The ventilator will be permanently connected to a mobile phone for controlling the device and display critical information.

Portable ventilator connected to mobile

Anti-microbial coating on surface: Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research had developed an anti-microbial coating which is one-step curable. When it is applied on different surfaces such as textile, plastic, ceramic etc. and it can kill many viruses including COVID 19.Even, IIT, Guwahati developed an anti microbial spray which is to be sprayed on PPE under the guidance of Dr. Biman B. Mandal, basically it has been developed for health care employees and others who are directly into the battle

Antimicrobial coating of surfaces (source: Researchgate.net)

3D Printed Technology: All the scientists, researchers, engineers, companies which deal with 3D printed technology have begun to respond to the global crisis by extending their hands to decrease  the pressure on supply chains and governments. The European Association for Additive Manufacturing (CECIMO) has taken the initiative to combine all the opportunist investment and advisory companies within Europe. So far, the response has been positive with, “many companies from the European 3Dprinting industry already volunteering to aid hospitals and health centers by proposing the use of their machines.” Materialise which is a global provider of 3D printing services, is producing 3D printed door handles which is hands free to minimize the of Corona virus transmission. Shanghai firm has made a 3D printed hospital having floor area of 10 square meter with a height of 2.8 meter for quarantined patients infected by coronavirus in Wuhan, Chaina. The structure has met all the standards for heat preservation and isolation for the patients.

3D printed medical valves

3D printed sanitizer stand

3D printed door handle

3D printed mask

Conclusion:

These grassroots innovations can make a big difference to people’s live. Now, it is the time for us to play our individual role to combat the effect of COVID19. The world has become more united and strong during this pandemic phase and it is ready to adopt any new technology for surviving.

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