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Ford to begin making air-purifying respirators at facility near Flat Rock, expands mask production

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Posted at 1:30 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 13:30:47-04

DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Ford Motor Company announced Monday it will produce powered air-purifying respirators and expanding production of face masks at two Michigan facilities.

According to Ford, they partnered with 3M to develop the new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR), and production will start Tuesday at Ford's Vreeland facility near Flat Rock.

Ford will start producing an all-new PAPR design to help protect health care professionals on the front lines fighting COVID-19. Rapidly designing components and prototyping in accordance with federal guidelines and with 3M expert support and guidance, Ford teams reduced PAPR development time to less than four weeks.

“We knew that to play our part helping combat coronavirus, we had to go like hell and join forces with experts like 3M to expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “In just three weeks under Project Apollo, we’ve unleashed our world-class manufacturing, purchasing and design talent to get scrappy and start making personal protection equipment and help increase the availability and production of ventilators.”

The automaker has already produced more than 3 million face shields in Plymouth, and has also started production on to expand production of COVID-19 collection kits to test for the virus.

“3M is dedicated to helping to protect our heroic health care workers and first responders globally, including sharing our scientific expertise to increase supply of needed PPE,” said Bernard Cicut, vice president, 3M Personal Safety Division. “We are proud to stand together with Ford in this effort, as they have helped us increase manufacturing of existing 3M PPE products and, together, we have rapidly designed a new PAPR to help protect these heroes.”

“By working collaboratively with 3M to quickly combine more than 100 years of Ford manufacturing and engineering expertise with personal protection equipment design and expertise, we’re getting much-needed technology into the hands of frontline medical workers to help when they need it most,” said Marcy Fisher, Ford director, Global Body Exterior and Interior Engineering.

About 90 paid UAW volunteers will assemble PAPRs at the Vreeland facility with the ability to make 100,000 or more.

The newly designed PAPR includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours. The air blower system – similar to the fan found in F-150’s ventilated seats – is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.

Ford is also manufacturing face masks at its Van Dyke Transmission plant.

Around 30 paid UAW volunteers will start making masks at the plant's ISO Class 8 cleanroom, which is a controlled environment with an extremely low level of pollutants.

“UAW Ford members continue to step up and volunteer to work during this difficult time as we expand at the facility across from Flat Rock to make respirators and at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant to make face masks for medical use,” said Gerald Kariem, vice president, UAW Ford Department. “The UAW also continues to work with Ford to follow stringent CDC guidelines and go above and beyond protections for these members who are so proudly volunteering to serve their communities and their nation.”

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