About a month ago, Ford Motor Company announced that it was working with 3M and General Electric (GE) Healthcare to scale up production of equipment that will help patients and front line health workers against the new coronavirus. 3M is currently helping the company develop PAPRs (Powered Air Purifying Respirators) with the use of existing parts, while GE Healthcare is looking to help Ford build 50,000 ventilators in just 100 days.
Now the automaker has announced that the production of the PAPRs has officially begun. This comes after both Ford and 3M were able to rapidly design components and conducted prototyping tests. In less than four weeks, the companies were able to ramp up production of the new PAPR.
Ford's new PAPR consists of a hood and face shield that protects the health worker's head and shoulders. It also has a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system which provides the user with filtered air for up to 8 hours. The air-blower system, which is similar to the fan found in the F-150's ventilated seats, is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery for ease of use.
About 90 UAW volunteers will begin assembling the PAPRs at Ford's Vreeland facility near Flat Rock Michigan which is capable of producing 100,000 units or more. The company expects that the respirator design will meet the requirements and that it will immediately be approved by the end of April.
Pending approval, 3M will distribute the newly-designed PAPR through its US network in order to bring this technology quickly and efficiently to other health workers that urgently need them. Any profits earned from the sale of the new PAPR will be donated to COVID-19 related non-profit organizations.
Aside from making PAPRs, Ford also announced they have started making face masks at the Van Dyk transmission plant. The company's manufacturing and purchasing teams were able to get all of the necessary raw materials quickly in order for production to begin as early as this week. Approximately 30 UAW volunteers will begin making masks. Once production increases, Ford is looking to have a total of 80 UAW volunteers making face masks.
To help further protect health workers while caring for those that are ill, Ford has begun manufacturing reusable medical gowns with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems. Using airbags from their existing vehicles, Ford is looking to make 100,000 gowns a week come April 19 and beyond. Joyson Safety Systems will cut and sew 1.3 million gowns, which have already been self-tested to federal standards and are washable up to 50 times. More than 5,000 gowns have already been delivered to a local hospital in Michigan.
As to when ventilator production will start, Ford plans to start making the said device on April 20, 2020. Ford plans to produce about 50,000 ventilators by July 4, 2020, in order to help critically-ill patients.
With the US now having the most number of confirmed cases (586,941) and fatalities (23,634) in the world, the country needs all the help it can get from companies like Ford. Here's to hoping that the Blue Oval will be able to help the country's health workers and patients in a big way.