Ford works with 3M, GE to ramp up production of respirators, ventilators and face shields

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 28 Mar 2020


Ford Motor Company, joining forces with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare, is lending its manufacturing and engineering expertise to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus.

In addition, Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman. “At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators
Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surge demand for first responders and health care workers. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully locating off-the-shelf parts like fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours.

Ford is looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO.

Ventilators
In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.  

“We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said GE Healthcare President & CEO Kieran Murphy. “We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs.”

Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.

Respirators and Face Shields
Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team also is quickly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids and when paired with N95 respirators can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than N95 respirators alone.

The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

Mahindra & Mahindra is to produce face shields for medical service providers, using a Ford design. (Image: Dr Pawan Goenka/Twitter)

Meanwhile, Ford is also working with its alliance partner Mahindra & Mahindra in India. Mahindra & Mahindra, which is actively engaged in the fight against coronavirus and is assisting the government of India and medical services, is to begin manufacture of a face shield/mask, developed from a design sourced from Ford Motor Corporation, from March 30.

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Mahindra to manufacture Ford-designed face shield at Mumbai plant​