Sony mulls production partnership for ventilators

TOKYO — Sony is considering joining forces with industry players to produce ventilators amid fears they will be in short supply due to the spread of the new coronavirus, Nikkei learned on Wednesday.

The electronics conglomerate is considering joining other domestic manufacturers by making components or assembling part of the equipment. The company wants to partner with a manufacturer that can design and develop a ventilator, and then take part in manufacturing, assembly, and quality inspection of circuit boards and parts. Sony can start production cooperation for between 1,000 and 2,000 machines in as early as three months.

Japan’s Ministry of Health has called for cooperation to increase ventilator production. Sony is planning to utilize its know-how in the medical device business such as cell analyzers.

The company is considering factories in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Kosai, which deals with medical equipment, and in the town of Koda in Aichi Prefecture, which produces digital cameras and lenses, as bases to roll out its ventilator business.

Sony entered the medical business in 2012 and established a joint venture company with Olympus to manufacture medical devices in 2013. Sony uses electronics technology in its core camera and lense business to develop endoscopic and surgical microscopes for surgery as well as cell analyzers. It has determined that such technology can also be applied to ventilators.

The Ministry of Health announced deregulation measures on April 13 to open up ventilator production to various industries. Manufacturers from another industry that partners with medical equipment manufacturers and distributors to make or assemble parts can conduct on-site inspections to confirm quality afterwards. The measure can thus shorten the process from about 4 months to just several days, according to the ministry.

Japan is following the U.S. lead in pursuing deregulation to encourage players from different industries to make materials and components. General Motors aims to ship ventilators by June. The U.K., meanwhile, released manufacturing specifications, and Dyson has completed a new model.

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