Kolkata: ArcelorMittal on Tuesday said it had joined hands in a global effort to develop a 3D printed ventilator prototype, as companies round the world try to pitch in to meet the acute shortage of medical equipment in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The prototype will be tested imminently in hospitals and, if successful, is expected to significantly step up the ability to rapidly produce ventilators.

The company said its R & D team harnessed its 3D printing expertise to collaborate in the global effort.

ArcelorMittal is now focussed on the prototype for a “more advanced ventilator which also has the ability, in addition to providing lungs with oxygen, to feeding medicine incorporating AI algorithms,” the company said.

The move comes even as the world’s largest steel producer said it is bracing for further production cuts with rise in the global virus outbreak impacting business. ArcelorMittal also announced that its AGM, scheduled on May 5, 2020, had been postponed due to the crisis, adding that a new date will be announced in due course.

“We expect to see a significant decline in industrial activity in many if not all of the geographic markets in which we operate, which is impacting our business,” it said.

In response, ArcelorMittal is “reducing production and temporary idling steelmaking and finishing assets, adapted on a country by country basis in alignment with regional demand and government requirements.” This will not necessarily happen uniformly at assets across the globe given the escalation of the virus is at different points in different regions.

While Europe, the current epicenter of the virus outbreak accounted for nearly 47% of its 89.8 million tonne steel output in 2019, total number of those affected in the US now exceed China, with cases on the rise in countries like, South Africa and India, where it has manufacturing units.

To mitigate the impact of the lower level of production the company said it is implementing significant measures “to preserve cash and reduce costs in-line with reduced production levels.”

Despite the current market volatility and uncertainty, ArcelorMittal said its net debt is at a record low and it has a “very manageable debt maturity profile having used available cash to prepay debt in recent years and also benefit from a significant liquidity position.”

“We have also been utilising our global network to help facilitate the transfer of equipment to and from regions most impacted,” ArcelorMittal said. While it assisted in China’s safety and medical equipment needs in February, the company said it is now working with associates there “to help bring medical equipment to the countries now facing an escalation, such as India and Liberia.” Also, where excess capacity exists, ArcelorMittal is offering space to medical facilities to host additional wards.

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