In a press conference last month, Department of Health Services Secretary Designee Andrea Palm confirmed that the state is working to determine exactly how many ventilators are currently available.
“We are continuing to work with our partners to get exact numbers, and we can provide that when we have it,” she said.
Now, In an effort to bolster the state’s supply, Foxconn’s Wisconsin plant says they’re planning to produce medical-grade ventilators.
The factory, located in Racine county, says it will begin production on the units in the next 4-6 weeks.
The Foxconn facility, a project of former governor Scott Walker, has been a subject of intense debate. Since its announcement three years ago, the state has sunk a potential 4.5 billion dollars into subsidies for the project.
Governor Evers told the company last year that those tax subsidies can be withdrawn, however. According to The Verge, the Governor warned Foxconn that if it didn’t redraft the contract to fit their current goals for the facility, the company could face financial repercussions.
Despite Governor Evers’ warning, Foxconn executives resisted cooperation with state officials. The company continued pivoting the purpose of the plant several times throughout the past year.
The factory will open next month, after construction on the facility continuing through Governor Evers’ Safer-at-Home restrictions.
The ventilator production is in partnership with the medical device manufacturing company Medtronic, which is ramping up production of the ventilator model, called the PB-560.
Last week, Medtronic made all blueprints and software for the model open-source. Any manufacturer in the world, including Foxconn, can now produce the units.
Ben Petok is Medtronic’s Communication Director. He says the goal of the open-source project was to help maximize the scale of ventilator production.
“One of the reasons we made all this available online is so that manufacturers can go in and get literally all of the material they need to build the PB-560 on their own, including software. The overarching goal here is to get this information out into the public so that everybody around the world can take the ball and move forward to try and meet this challenge,” he said.
Speaking with CNBC on Monday, Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak said the company is planning on manufacturing 1000 units per week by the end of June, up from its normal rate of 100 per week.
That rate does not include contributions from outside manufacturers, such as Foxconn. Neither Medtronic nor Foxconn have released anticipated production numbers for the factory.
Foxconn has faced criticism for working conditions at their Chinese factories. A series of deaths at Foxconn plants in 2010 resulted in the erection of so-called “suicide nets” to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths.
Foxconn is one of many industrial production facilities that are transitioning their operations to production of medical-grade ventilators. Tesla, Ford and General Motors have all announced plans to produce the units.
Update: Foxconn representatives returned WORT’s request for comment on this story after deadline. In an email, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed the company’s plans to work with Medtronic.
“The medical and technical experts from both our companies are working closely to fast-track the research and development and production processes so additional ventilators can be quickly produced to fight the current global pandemic. We would like to extend our gratitude to our founder Mr. Terry Gou for his help in facilitating this partnership with Medtronic and his contribution, based on his previous experience in the healthcare business, to this collaboration.”