Ford Motor Company, joining forces with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare, is lending its manufacturing and engineering expertise to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus.
In addition, Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.
“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.”
Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator 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.
To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M 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.
“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. “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, and 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,” 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.”
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 coronavirus.
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 will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy Hospital, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospital. 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 by Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing.
Ford is also leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.
In addition to manufacturing new equipment, Ford has kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed to sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.
For continued coverage of the auto industry's responses to the coronavirus pandemic, keep checking back at Autoblog.