DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Ford Motor Company is teaming up with 3M, GE Healthcare and the UAW to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting the novel coronavirus.
Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and use its in-house 3D printing capability to produce disposable respirators for healthcare workers.
“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.”
UAW Vice President and Director of the UAW Ford Department Gerald Kariem released this statement on the efforts to help produce protective equipment:
"UAW Ford members have a history of working together for the good of our Nation. We look forward to collaborating with Ford so that once again UAW members can find ways to improve the health and safety of all Americans during this national emergency."
Here's what the companies will produce, according to Ford:
Powered Air-Purifying Respirators
Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging 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 go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully 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.
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.
“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.”
In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support 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.”
Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.
Respirators and Face Shields
Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team also is quickly 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 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 is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., 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 will quickly grow production as fast as possible.
Ford is evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the U.K. government to produce additional ventilators.
In China, Ford of China joint venture partner Jiangling Motors also 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 kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.