Ford has officially confirmed that it is working with multiple firms in the medical equipment and supply business to produce products that are needed to fight the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic facing the world. The automaker is working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity for the company’s powered air-purifying respirator or PAPR. The two companies are working to jointly develop a new design that leverages parts from both companies to meet the surging demand from first responders and healthcare workers for the PAPR respirators. The new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.
Ford and 3M are working as fast as possible to get the new respirator in production and are sourcing off-the-shelf parts such as fans from the F-150 truck’s cooled seats for airflow. That fan will work along with a 3M HEPA air filters that can filter contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles. The PAPR devices that Ford builds will have portable tool battery packs that can power the respirators for up to eight hours of use. Ford has also stated that it is looking at how it might produce these new PAPRs at one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities with the potential of boosting 3M’s production by a factor of 10.
Ford and GE Healthcare have also announced they are working together to expand the production of a simplified version of an existing ventilator designed by GE Healthcare. The ventilator would be used to support COVID-19 patients who are in respiratory failure or having difficulty breathing. The ventilators could be produced at a Blue Oval manufacturing site in addition to a GE location. Ford notes that work on that initiative is a result of a request for help from the US government, which we talked about yesterday.
The Blue Oval US design team is also creating and starting to test a transparent full-face shield for medical workers and first responders. The shields are designed to fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids when paired with N95 respirators to limit medical professionals’ exposure to the coronavirus alone. Ford notes the first 1000 of its face shields were tested at the Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems, and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Ford has approximately 75,000 of the shields expected to be finished this week and intends to complete more than 100,000 next week at a subsidiary called Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facility in Plymouth, Michigan.