Bosch aims to cut Covid-19 test time to 45 minutes

Bosch aims to cut Covid-19 test time to 45 minutes

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Bosch is aiming to cut the time taken for the Covid-19 test developed with a UK laboratory to 45 minutes, down from the current 150 minutes. It has also developed a fully automated system for making face masks and is making this available for free to third party equipment makers.

The company is ramping up production of its Vivalytic test system five-fold, even though the system will not receive CE approval until the end of May 2020. “Wherever possible, we want to contribute our expertise to efforts to contain the pandemic, for instance through our newly developed rapid Covid-19 test and our Vivalytic analysis device,” said Dr Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch. “Demand is huge. We’re doing everything we can to significantly increase production, and will increase capacity five-fold over our original plans by the end of the year.”

Bosch intends to produce more than a million of the current Covid-19 tests, developed with Randox Laboratories in Northern Ireland, this year, and to increase this to three million next year. In addition to existing laboratory tests in the early stages, the Vivalytic analysis device is to be used initially in hospitals and doctors’ offices, where it will be used primarily to protect medical staff, for whom the rapid availability of test results in less than two-and-a-half hours is crucial.

The rapid test is already being delivered to European customers with a “research use only” label and can be used following validation.

Bosch has already started production of face masks at thirteen Bosch plants in nine countries, from Bari in Italy, to Bursa in Turkey, to Anderson in the US.It is currently setting up two fully automatic production lines in Stuttgart-Feuerbach with further lines to follow at its German Erbach location as well as in India and Mexico. “It took our special-purpose machinery unit just a few weeks to design the necessary machinery,” said Denner. Bosch has also made the designs available to other companies free of charge. This means the company will be able to manufacture more than 500,000 masks per day.

The moves come as Bosch anticipates considerable challenges for the global economy as a result of the pandemic. “We are bracing ourselves for a global recession that will also have a considerable impact on our own performance in 2020,” said Prof. Stefan Asenkerschbaumer, CFO and deputy chairman of the Bosch board of management.

Automotive production is expected to fall by at least 20 percent in 2020, and Bosch Group sales fell by 7.3 percent in the first quarter with sales dropping by 17 percent in March 2020 alone.

The company is unable to make a forecast for the year as a whole, and is cutting working hours and production at many locations worldwide, salary reductions for specialists and managers including executive management, and extended time frames for investments.

In Europe, sales in 2019 were €40.8bn, 1.4 per cent down on the previous year, or an exchange rate-adjusted 1.2 percent. In North America, revenues increased by 5.9 per cent (only 0.6 per cent after adjusting for exchange-rate effects) to €13bn. Business in Asia Pacific (including Africa) reflected the collapse of automotive production in India and China: sales declined by 3.7 per cent to €22.5bn, an exchange rate-adjusted drop of 5.4 per cent.

“We want to ensure reliable supplies to meet our customers’ demand as it gradually returns, with a view to helping the world economy recover as quickly as possible,” said Denner. “Our goal is to synchronize the ramp-up of production and secure supply chains, especially in automotive production. We have already achieved this in China, where our 40 or so local plants are producing again and the supply chains are stable. We are working hard to do the same in our other regions.”

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