Flight simulator manufacturer CAE has produced a mass production ventilator prototype in less than two weeks to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Canadian manufacturer has said it is ready to collaborate with other companies to secure the component sources and produce 10,000 ventilators in three months as soon as the life-saving device is approved by Health Canada.

Manufacturer answered call for help from Canadian government

CAE assembled a team of a dozen specialists two weeks ago to work on the design after facing calls from political leaders to help out during the COVID-19 crisis. CAE is best known for building flight simulators, which are used to train pilots in both civil aviation and defence, but it also produces surgical and medical simulators, which account for about 4 per cent of its annual revenue.

Ventilators are used to keep patients’ lungs supplied with oxygen when they are unable to breathe on their own and are vital to keeping alive those with the most severe coronavirus. It’s not yet known whether Canada could experience a ventilator shortage, but the country’s government, has called on industry to fill a potential void for the devices, as well as medical masks and other personal protective equipment used by health care workers.

Ventilator tested on simulation mannequins

CAE employs doctors, including a chief medical officer, who were included in the ventilator design team and the company has tested the prototype on simulation mannequins outfitted with iron lungs.

Approvals for manufacturing a medical product would usually take many months and years but Chief technology officer for CAE, Marc St-Hilaire said: “We are not in normal times. We are in a race, and so the government is taking extraordinary measures.”

CAE is working with other players in the aerospace sector to source the parts through global supply chains. St-Hilaire said ventilator production was only temporary and would not form part of the company’s long term plans.

He explained: “This is a wartime effort, that’s why we’re seeing so much collaboration amongst everyone… we’re not in a competitive mode.”

“We’re all proceeding forward on good faith, wanting to help Canada, wanting to save our parents, our neighbours, our friends. That’s what motivates everybody.”

CAE hopes to deliver its first ventilator in three weeks.