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Electronics manufacturers continue to step up to the plate during these uncertain times. In this interview, Dan Beaulieu speaks with Chris Kalmus, owner of Aurora Circuits in Aurora, Illinois, who announced on April 24 that his company would be offering PCBs for ventilators free of charge.
Dan Beaulieu: Chris, thanks for talking to me today. I know you’re very busy these days.
Chris Kalmus: No problem. I’m glad to do it.
Beaulieu: You recently announced that you are providing PCBs for ventilators at no charge. Tell us about that.
Kalmus: I wanted to make sure that if any medical company needed boards for their ventilators, they could come to us. I have been reading about the shortage of ventilators and how people are dying, and that bothered me a great deal.
Beaulieu: What spurred you to do this?
Kalmus: There were actually two things. The first was that I saw in the media that G.E. Medical in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—which is 90 miles away from where my company is in Aurora, Illinois—could not complete and ship ventilators because they were waiting for PCBs to arrive from China, and that really bothered me. Here I am, a PCB fabricator less than 100 miles away, and I could build the boards faster than they can get them from China. Meanwhile, people in this country are dying for want of these ventilators, and I thought, “What is it going to take for them to notice that there are American PCB fabricators right down the street, and yet they are waiting for boards to arrive from China?” That was unacceptable to me.
Beaulieu: What was the second thing that made you decide to offer free ventilator PCBs?
Kalmus: Last week, I got a survey from the IPC saying that the Department of Defense (DoD) was reaching out, looking for a list of companies who could build PCBs for ventilators, and that’s what led me to make this offer. We can talk all day about the fact that we have surrendered our infrastructure to China, and that bothers me a lot, but in the end, what really got me going was that Americans were dying for lack of the right equipment. There are very few times in your life where it is in your power to do something important that could save lives, and that’s why I made this decision. I wanted to help as an American, and I want my team to feel proud as well—to feel like they are helping and doing something important. Again, that’s really why I made this offer.
Beaulieu: Can I get personal here, Chris? Are you really able to afford to do this?
Kalmus: Yes, I am fairly sure I can. My team is all here working, and I want to keep them that way. One side of our business is very robust, but the automotive side has slowed down, so I’d rather we be working on something important—like these PCBs for ventilators—than having them go home. This is a time when we all have to pull together, and I feel privileged that we can do our part.
Beaulieu: Excellent. I applaud you. Do you have any last comments before we wrap up?
Kalmus: First of all, I hope people realize that I am very serious about this offer, and I hope that companies like G.E. Medical in Wisconsin will take advantage of it. Secondly, I cannot help but say that we all need to be more careful in the future to make sure that we keep our infrastructures in the U.S. robust. In our industry, for example, there were once almost 2,000 PCB fabricators in the U.S.; now, there are fewer than 200, and only 10% of what there was because other countries like China could do it more cheaply. We need to look at other variables when we buy products besides buying stuff cheaply.
Beaulieu: That makes sense. And I promise you that when this is over, we will talk over a beer and do a longer interview on that subject. Meanwhile, thank you for what you are doing.
Kalmus: Thank you as well.