Ford Motor Co. has started working with 3M and GE Healthcare to produce urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders, and patients fighting coronavirus.
The three pieces of medical equipment that Ford will produce alongside these companies are powered-air purifying respirators, ventilators, and face shields.
Ford and 3M will team up to increase 3M’s manufacturing capacity of its powered air-purifying respirators. The two companies will also be jointly developing a new respirator design that will leverage parts from both companies to meet the huge demand that COVID-19 has produced.
This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers, the company noted.
Ford and 3M have been using off-the-shelf parts to expedite the production process. En example of this process is using fans from the Ford F-150's cooled seats, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminant, and portable tool battery packs to power the respirators for up to eight hours.
If Ford can produce these respirators at one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, it could help boost 3M’s production up to tenfold, Ford noted.
Ford and GE Healthcare will work together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design. The ventilators could be produced at Ford’s manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.
Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials, the company stated.
Ford’s U.S. design team is also creating and beginning to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The shield fully blocks a person’s face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids. When paired with N95 respirators, these face shields can more effectively limit potential exposure to COVID-19 than N95 respirators alone, the company stated.
Ford will test the first 1,000 face shields this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems, and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals.
Ford expects to finish about 75,000 of these shields this week, and the production schedule from then on is expected to be more than 100,000 face shields per week. Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich. Will produce these shields.
Ford has also committed to send Henry Ford health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.