Ford has announced that it has reached an agreement to partner with 3M and GE Healthcare to aid in the production of medical equipment needed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, colloquially known as coronavirus. Additionally, Ford will leverage its in-house 3D printing ability to produce 100,000 face shields per week. The move has the full support of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.
“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.”
The automaker is leveraging its manufacturing facilities to help with the crisis.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Ford, 3M partner on respirators
Ford and 3M will increase the manufacturing capacity of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company’s powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) utilizing a new design that could be procured in a Ford facility in Michigan by UAW workers.
According to Ford, the teams have been 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.”
“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. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs. We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”
“We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford,” said Mike Roman, 3M chairman of the board and chief executive officer. “It’s crucial that we mobilize all resources to protect lives and defeat this disease, and I’m incredibly grateful to Ford and their employees for this partnership.”
Ford’s team is already at work on perfecting techniques.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Ford, GE Healthcare team up to produce ventilators
In addition to the 3M partnership, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator. 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.
Ford’s engineering team has come up with a design for a filtration system.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
3D printing respirators and face shields
Ford’s design team is working to create and test transparent full-face shield 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.
Ford’s engineering team has shown off a sketch of a disposable hood design.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
According to a release, Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan, and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture disposable respirators, which are needed to help filter the air healthcare workers and first responders breathe. Once approved by the proper health agency, Ford will initially start at a pace equal to 1,000 per month but that production can grow quickly.