(DETROIT) — Ford has announced they are teaming up with a number of companies and suppliers to ramp up production of urgently needed medical supplies.
The company says they will design and produce medical equipment, tests and protective equipment for medical workers, first responders and patients fighting COVID-19.
The company joined forces with 3M to develop a new powered air-purifying respirator for health care workers fighting the virus.
The two companies have a history working together in the automotive business and after speaking with each other about helping 3M increase production of their own medical supplies, Ford asked if there was a way to help bridge the gap between the supply available and the demand needed by healthcare workers.
“We decided we would design our own and do a go-fast. [With] 3M bringing their medical expertise and their specific knowledge on their product, they produce a PAPR as well, we would combine those forces and go as fast as we possibly could. It’s been a very intense four weeks of designing, validating, doing the development work and certifying the design for a new PAPR,” Mary Fischer, Ford director of Global Body Exterior and Interior Engineering, told ABC Audio.
The new design uses a fan similar to one found in ventilated seats and includes hood and face shield. It will allow a supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours while being powered by a rechargeable battery.
Approximately 90 paid United Auto Workers volunteers will assemble the PAPR’s at Ford’s Vreeland Facility in Michigan. Production is underway and Ford hopes to be able to produce more than 100,000, but has not given a timetable to produce them.
Fischer says the design will meet specifications for the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory under the limited, public health emergency guidelines.
Once it is officially approved, 3M will distribute the masks across the country.
Ford says they are also producing polypropylene face masks in a clean room for internal use at their Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan, while pursuing a medical certification for the masks.
To start, 30 UAW paid volunteers will be producing the masks, before Ford ramps up to 80 UAW volunteers once production increases.
The masks are similar to the ones the CDC is recommending everyone wear while out to help stop the spread of the virus.
Ford is also helping manufacture reusable gowns with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems using the same material used to make airbags.
“We’ve gone through fifty wash cycles on these and they still retain their qualities. Essentially making sure the fluids don’t go through the gown to keep the healthcare workers protected,” said Fischer.
Joyson Safety Systems will be able to produce up to 100,000 gowns, which Ford says are self-tested to federal standards, by the week of the 19th.
Fischer said Ford worked with Beaumont Health in the Detroit area to design and test the gowns and said from the idea of producing gowns to the actual production was ten days.
They will send the gowns to the area’s in most need.
In addition, Ford is teaming up with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Kansas to produce additional test kits. Ford is helping by providing their expertise on mass production and man-power to scale up production.
Fischer says Thermo Fisher Scientific has also adapted their own equipment to get more tests out to the public.
Ford is building a third-party ventilator with GE Healthcare at another Ford plant in Michigan. The company says they will begin production next week with the goal of producing 50,000 Model A-E ventilators by July 4.
For all of Ford’s new products, Fischer said the company will provide them at cost or as close to cost as possible. If there is any profit, the company will donate the proceeds to charities that help COVID victims or other help in other ways during the crisis.
Previously, Ford announced they would produce full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The company says they have already built and donated more than 3 million masks.
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