General Motors has been busy making personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as breathing machines to help the already overwhelmed healthcare system in the U.S.
With the production of the face masks and ventilators now in full swing, GM is further expanding its manufacturing of PPEs. These include the manufacturing of latex-free face shields and protective gowns that will help protect health workers.
Spearheading the manufacturing of the face shields is GM's Additive Manufacturing and Design Fabrication Operations team. Thanks to 3D printing, components of the first face shields were made at five different GM locations – three onsite at the Global Technical Center in Warren, one at the Milford Proving Ground in Milford, and one at the North Hollywood Advanced Design Center in California.
The shields were cut from clear .7-mm polyester sheets using a static table cutting system that is normally used to cut trim pieces for concept vehicles. For full production, GM will be collaborating with suppliers such as Summit Polymers. The polymer company actually donated a steel injection mold in order for GM to increase face shield production from roughly 4,000 units to 25,000 examples per week. With it, GM is looking to purchase another one to increase face shield output to 50,000 per week.
Meanwhile, another company by the name of Argent International will help GM manufacture the 12-inch elastic bands on which the face shields will be mounted. The company even plans on donating their first 2,500 shields to GM.
Shield components will be shipped from Summit Polymers and Argent International for final assembly to the GM facility in Warren. Once assembled, the face shields will be shipped to high-priority hospitals in Metro Detroit, as directed by the State of Michigan’s Personal Protective Equipment List.
Aside from making face shields, GM also mentioned that they will start making protective gowns, as well as aerosol boxes. Members of the company's color and trim departments have started making medical gowns using old car covers as a prototype. The final gowns approved for use, however, were sewn from Tyvek, a breathable and protective material.
Lastly, GM's fabrication team came up with an aerosol box that will shield health workers while tending infected patients. The box measures 20 inches tall, 20 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and it comes with armholes on the side for health workers to slot their arms in.
With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US breaching 800,000, along with over 42,000 fatalities and 72,389 recoveries, GM's expansion of producing medical PPEs couldn't have come at a better time.