3M and GE Healthcare are working with Ford Motor to expand production of respirators for healthcare workers, and ventilators for coronavirus patients. (see GM to Provide Logistical Support for Ventilator Production) Ford, in cooperation with the UAW, will assemble more than 100,000 plastic face shields per week at an idled Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks. Ford also will also use its in-house 3D printing capacity to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.
Ford employees are helping 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of 3M’s powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs, as well as developing a new design using 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 speed things up, the Ford and 3M teams have been using off-the-shelf parts such as 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.
In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design for 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.”
Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team is 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 are testing 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’s Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.
Ford is using its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and sub-assemblies for use in personal protective equipment.
Ford is evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the U.K. government to produce additional ventilators. Ford of China joint-venture partner Jiangling Motors has donated 10 specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat coronavirus.
Ford has also started a working team to help hospitals locate and secure needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.