Hillsborough County Company Makes Part for COVID-19 Ventilators
A Hillsborough County company that makes precision parts for the aircraft, aerospace, and defense industries has a vital role in an ambitious national effort to manufacture 50,000 ventilators to combat the effects of COVID-19.
Southern Manufacturing Technologies (SMT) aims to produce tens of thousands of valve housings for the ventilators. Each of the aluminum parts is cube-shaped and about 2¼ inches wide. Through an electrolytic process they are coated with protective oxide after machining.
SMT is based north of Tampa International Airport at 5910 Johns Road. It routinely partners with the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County to provide internships for men and women who aspire to industrial careers.
GE Healthcare and Ford Motor Company are collaborating to produce the thousands of GE Carescape R860 ventilators in record time. GE Healthcare provides clinical expertise. Ford assembles the machines at a retrofitted automotive parts plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
The all-out effort is reminiscent of Ford’s efforts to mass-produce B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft during World War II, also in Ypsilanti.
SMT is a subcontractor, producing the housings for valves that are used in the ventilators. The local company shipped 3,383 of the housings in March, will make at least 4,000 parts in April, and plans to double that output monthly beginning in May. It just received an order for 30,000 units.
For years SMT has made valve housings for aerospace and medical applications, including ones for the GE Carescape R860 ventilator. The recent surge in orders is in response to the coronavirus pandemic, to assist with the stepped-up manufacture of ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients.
To keep up with the demand, SMT spent $70,000 retooling its machines. “We don’t have a clear idea of the demand,” says SMT Owner and President Roy Sweatman. “It’s as many as you can as fast as you can.”
Meanwhile, the company has prioritized worker safety along with production, staggering shifts so workers have less contact with one another, renting another building to keep people apart, and doing lots of cleaning and sanitizing.
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