Langley firm gears up to make vital ventilator parts in COVID-19 fight

Simalex Manufacturing is handling big orders as demand surges

A Langley company is making thousands of parts for ventilators after receiving big orders from American firms producing the vital equipment in the fight to save COVID-19 patients.

Langley’s Simalex Manufacturing, based in Walnut Grove, has been in the die-casting business for years, making parts for a wide variety of machines. Though they’ve long made a component for ventilators, until recently it was a small part of their business, said director of business development Patrick Whelan.

“We were engaged by Ventec Life Systems… in 2015,” Whelan said. Ventec is based in Seattle.

Simalex makes a cover component for the ventilator out of die-cast steel.

Since 2015, they’ve made about 500 to 1,000 per year – just a day or two worth of work for the manufacturer.

Now they’re expecting to make as many as 6,000 in the next few weeks, with the possibility of more orders as General Motors and Ventec ramp up to make about 200,000 machines.

But ventilators are desperately needed to save critically ill patients. Ventilators are one of the most important medical devices required during the ongoing pandemic.

READ MORE: A call for donations to fight COVID-19 in Langley and elsewhere

On March 19, Ventec placed a new order for 3,000 parts. Then on Friday, March 27, General Motors, which is starting to produce ventilators, ordered another 2,800, said Whelan.

Simalex is one of many companies producing parts.

“It’s just one of 600 [parts] in the assembly,” Whelan noted of their component.

But they can make their components quickly.

“They chose our process because we can produce 500 parts per shift,” Whelan said.

After die-casting, the cover is put into a CNC machine that make necessary holes and cleans up the edges. The company can run 400 units through its CNC machines in a day.

With ventilator covers now a big part of the firm’s future business, they can scale up to meet demand quickly.

Simalex could make a tool to create two or four covers for each run of the machinery, noted Whelan.

“That 500 per shift could turn into 2,000 per shift if need be,” he said. CNC capacity can be upgraded as well.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said.

If the demand is great enough, they can also bring in more workers. There are about 25 people working at Simalex right now, working two shifts five days a week.

“In a pinch, we could go up to three shifts a day, seven days a week,” said Whelan.

BusinessCoronavirusHealthLangley

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