The machine tool makers were instrumental in Taiwan’s race to supply the mounting demand for masks in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Article by TAITRA.
With COVID-19 devastating world manufacturing now, most factories have either paused work or are slowly recovering. Contrary to most countries worldwide, Taiwan was able to maintain full staff levels in its offices. A part of this result can be attributed to the massive increase in mask production capacity, which now has made Taiwan rank the world’s second largest mask supplier. Such capacity expansion was at first estimated to take six months—much too slow compared to the speed at which COVID-19 spreads. But it ended up taking only 40 days to build up all the 92 sets of automated mask production lines with support from the machine tool industry.
From 2.24 Million to 13 Million Masks Daily
In late January, COVID-19 had begun to spread globally, and Taiwan was at the front line of the strike. Knowing little about the virus, the government decided to expand the country’s mask production capacity so that it would be capable of supplying enough masks for domestic demand. It needed 92 sets of automated lines that required six months for assembly.
“As long as we are provided with the built-up layout, we can assemble it.”
“If there’s demand for robotics in combating COVID-19, we will make it our priority to support.”
“We can help handle the electrical circuits.”
These were the replies when the Taiwan machine tools manufacturers heard about the difficulties faced with mask production. Over 80 manufacturers immediately organised to volunteer and send out staff to join in the mask machine assembly. Given that masks were not a common household necessity as they are now, the lack of manpower made the assembly of the 92 sets a hard task. The volunteers came in to fill in for the needed workforce, and they also self-produced parts that were lacking for mask assembly. They even assisted in troubleshooting during the test runs. Up to 100 workers were volunteering on site during the busiest time, and an average of 60 workers were there every day.
Taiwan’s mask production was at 2.24 million masks per day in January. It increased fivefold within 40 days to 13 million in March. At present, 17 million masks are being produced per day.
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