Ford Motor Company, joining forces with organisations such as 3M and GE Healthcare, is lending its manufacturing and engineering knowledge to rapid extend production of immediately wanted medical gears 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 manufacture 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 throughout multiple industries, we can make an actual difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis,” stated 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.”
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 together to innovate 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 manufactured 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, assisting 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 essential equipment,” stated 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 extend 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as soon as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes collaborating with other great companies like Ford,” stated 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 workforce for this partnership.”
In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working jointly 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 motivated by how quickly companies from throughout industries have mobilized to address the raising challenge we together face from COVID-19,” stated 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 unexpected 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 rapidly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields completely 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 produce components and subassemblies 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.
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 started. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help fight against coronavirus.
Ford has also started a working team to help hospitals locate and secure immediately needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.
Additional companies and individuals who are interested in contributing to this effort can submit their information here at www.fordnewideas.com.
Ford, along with the companies it is supporting, will give additional updates as these special projects progress.