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Automation is a ‘critical technology’ to help people during coronavirus crisis, says A3

Automation technology is playing a critical role helping safeguard people and processes during the global coronavirus crisis, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

A3 is a US industrial association representing members in robotics, vision and imaging, motion control and motors, artificial intelligence and related automation technologies who are now part of the large ecosystem taking part in the battle against Covid-19.

Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, says: “These critical automation technologies are keeping people safe, helping develop new medicines and treatments, producing key products people need today, and filling other essential roles.

“We are proud to see our members in action helping people all over the world cope with this global pandemic.”

CloudMinds, a provider of cloud-based systems for robots, donated 12 sets of robots to a smart hospital in Wuhan, China.

The robots performed a variety of essential tasks, including flagging patients at the entrance to the field hospital who displayed fever symptoms, monitoring heart rates and blood oxygen levels, and delivering medication.

These robots also cleaned and disinfected hospital areas and led exercise routines for sick patients. Medical workers remotely directed and controlled the robot systems over a 5G network.

PIA Automation, an international group of companies offering automation solutions, purchased two abandoned production lines from a Chinese medical device manufacturer in order to develop them into fully automated lines for the production of surgical face masks.

A team of 24 specialists are now working around the clock to complete the modification within the next two to three weeks.

With a production volume of up to 200,000 masks per day, the two modernized facilities will help to massively improve the urgently needed medical care, especially in Zhejiang province.

Thermal cameras are being used in tandem with robots as part of this human body temperature scanning process. Not only are they being deployed at hospitals, but these systems are also being used at airports and other public places.

Airports in particular are actively employing FLIR thermal cameras as part of their screening measures for passengers and flight crews. They work as a tool to identify elevated body temperature, which can indicate further screening is necessary.

In the United States, Roche Molecular Solutions is utilizing ABB robots to rapidly produce the newly-approved FDA tests.

Now, instead of days, doctors and patients will receive results in three hours. The emergency authorization is allowing these tests to be manufactured at a rate of 400,000 a day, equivalent to about 1.5 million tests a month.

Burnstein says: “As the coronavirus cases continue to spike, healthcare workers will need access to more and more tests, and we can all be thankful automation is helping to solve the shortage problem.”

3M, which produces the N95 respirator, says it is committed to maintaining operations and producing supplies needed in a quick and safe manner.

The company is activating more production lines to support public health across their global manufacturing facilities, and has donated personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

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