Help Me Understand Manufacturing
March 22, 2020 5:44 AM   Subscribe

How exactly is Elon Musk making 250,000 n95 masks overnight? Is he lying? As far as I know his factories are closed, and anyway manufacturing masks seems completely different than manufacturing cars.

I mean I guess I can see him retooling to make ventilators, but the idea that he can just roll out 250k masks makes no sense to me.

Any links to details, or if you have any idea of the process, I would appreciate hearing.
posted by Literaryhero to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
It’s most likely narcissistic Elon bullshit like his rescue submarine again.

If he’s got hold of the material you need to make the masks (not trivial in and of itself) and has already re-tooled part of the production line to do it, then all power to him but I’ll believe it when I see it.
posted by pharm at 5:53 AM on March 22 [18 favorites]

He might be able to get the masks made quickly. They're simply plastic shells. But sourcing the specialized filtration material inside the masks is another issue altogether, and not something Musk, or anyone else, can simply snap their fingers and have done.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:00 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]

I'd imagine they already have them on hand since the masks filter particulates encountered in manufacturing processes and are often required by safety regulations. Since his factories are shut, those are not being used and can be distributed.
posted by ExpertWitness at 6:01 AM on March 22 [14 favorites]

I'd expect that the air filters Tesla uses in their cars are made by a supplier, but maybe not. Making those would require pretty similar machines, so it's not out of the question that they could be repurposed to make a type of N95 mask relatively quickly, especially if they can make the necessary dies in house.
posted by wierdo at 6:02 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

One of the soft parts (cabin air filter, door panel inner seal) of the cars may be produced in-house rather than by a supplier. If that part happens to be of an appropriate material- like for the cabin air filter - setting up dies to cut blanks rather than fold pleats would be pretty easy.

More likely he's full of shit.
posted by notsnot at 6:17 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

How exactly is Elon Musk making 250,000 n95 masks overnight?

He didn't say he's making them. He has them in supply for his employees, and is giving his supply to medical workers instead.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:52 AM on March 22 [14 favorites]

Yes, the quote I see being bandied about is that he has them, not that he made them (at all, let alone overnight). Also 250k only seems like a huge number because demand has gone through the roof and created shortages. I’ve bought these masks in moderate quantities (hundreds at a time) for the shop that I run, and while I don’t have a case on hand to measure, I’d guess that 250k would approximately fill my living room, chest-deep, in normal packaging.
posted by jon1270 at 7:15 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]

He isn’t making them, he already has them. The N95 masks are used to protect his workers during the manufacturing process. He is donating those masks to healthcare workers.
posted by shb at 7:15 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]

Apple is also donating "millions" of masks to healthcare workers in the US and Europe. They also build a lot of their own hardware, including chips, so makes sense they have plenty on hand.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:18 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

N95 masks are purchased in bulk and in times of plenty just handed out. At the industrial shop I worked at we had ~50 positions that used them and we ordered 25,000 masks a quarter. So a hundred grand of them a year. I was on the safety team and we fought to get masks for 180 workers. That would been 5000 masks a week but we could not get worker support for it, because people are thick. This was in Canada.
posted by zenon at 8:18 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Elon Musk did say he would turn to manufacturing ventilators, if there’s a shortage. He later added that it would take time to switch over.

Big ventilator manufacturers like Dräger and Medtronic claimed it’s not so easy, mainly because they all depend on a supply chain of parts that meet medical regulations, a supply chain that Tesla would not be boosting.

Now Musk is in “talks” with Medtronic to somehow help them increase their capacity, though exactly how is not mentioned.
posted by ejs at 8:39 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Yes, if he's actually providing them, it's because they were already in use in his factories (such as they are). He's very alert to opportunities to be a parasite on government programs so I'm sure he's eager to get a tax deduction for anything the company can't use right now.

But, no pun intended, I wouldn't hold my breath until they show up.
posted by praemunire at 10:40 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Well they have been delivered, as well as 1,255 ventilators which have also been delivered, according to Gov Newsom.
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 8:34 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]

Well they have been delivered, as well as 1,255 ventilators which have also been delivered, according to Gov Newsom.

Just for future clarification, he bought those ventilators. It is still good, but his promise to make all this stuff seemed to not have been accurate.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:45 AM on March 26

I'm not going to go digging for it, but one of the articles I saw quoted him as saying they would make some but that it would take weeks to get set up. The internet is a giant rumor mill, with statements constantly being misinterpreted and taken out of context to feed the outrage burners.
posted by jon1270 at 4:48 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]

(ventilators, that is.)
posted by jon1270 at 5:48 AM on March 26

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