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Millions of swabs made by a local manufacturer will be on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 after receiving official approval from Health Canada late last month.
Winnipeg-based Precision Advanced Digital Manufacturing (ADM) had long been a major producer of medical products, but during the pandemic, the company engineered a 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swab design that quickly took off.
Called Canswab, the company says its product is the first Canadian-made COVID-19 testing product to receive federal health approval.
"We’ve signed a letter of intent with Precision ADM," tweeted federal minister of innovation, science and industry Navdeep Bains Friday. "With a current capacity of 120,000 swabs per week, the company is heavily supporting our testing efforts."
With the need for swabs expected to stay high, the company said it has secured an additional 20,000 square-foot facility in order to properly mass-produce the Canswab.
In a release, the company said it has received orders from a number of provincial governments, in addition to the federal government’s letter of intent. To meet that demand, the company is scaling up production with the goal of manufacturing between two and four million swabs per month.
The company uses additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, to manufacture its products, including the Canswab.
"We have been manufacturing surgical products such as spine devices and joint replacements for a long time, but during this pandemic, we have taken steps to make sure we are doing all we can to support a secure domestic supply chain for our health-care system in Canada," said Precision ADM’s CEO Martin Petrak in a release.
"Adding additional 3D printing capacity to our operations will enable us to produce essential testing equipment in North America and help our communities faster," he added.
The company, which has an FDA-registered facility, said in its release that it aims to not only produce the swab for Canadian governments, but also for other countries.
Earlier in the pandemic, many provinces, U.S. states and hard-hit countries like Italy faced a shortage of nasopharyngeal swabs, which led to an increased effort by manufacturers to keep up with demand, along with applications by new manufacturers for approval.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that some U.S. testing sites continue to run low on both swabs and the equipment needed to process them.
Precision ADM is headquartered at 1595 Buffalo Pl., near Winnipeg’s Linden Woods neighbourhood. Aside from medical products, the company also manufactures devices for the aerospace, energy and industrial sectors.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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