Since March 2020, Ford has been busy working with 3M developing and building Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) to help health care workers in the front line. After weeks of development, using components from the automaker's parts supply, as well as getting the seal of approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it looks like work on the PAPRs has finally paid off.

Recently, the Blue Oval brand has officially started shipping the PAPRs to health care workers. Using design guidance from 3M and off-the-shelf parts like ventilator fans and power tool batteries, it took Ford and 3M less than 40 days to make the PAPRs.

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“Ford could not stand by while health care workers in this country placed their lives on the line to help others without even having proper protection,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “That’s why we kicked off an all-out sprint to protect those who are so selflessly helping patients afflicted with this terrible virus.”

Ford's Product Development team moved quickly to design the new PAPR. This was done by combining vehicle air conditioning with 3M's knowledge of medical devices. Meanwhile, Ford's Advanced Manufacturing team rapidly prototyped the PAPR with 3D printing. To date, over 10,000 PAPRs have been manufactured by approximately 90 paid United Auto Workers (UAW) volunteers at the company's Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan.

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“I’m proud of all of the vehicles I’ve helped build over the years, but this is something totally different. I’m up for this experience to help the world – to help the situation we’ve got. A lot of friends ask me, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ and I say, ‘Yes. It’s the right thing to do',” said Michele Strong, a team leader volunteering in Ford's Vreeland facility.

The PAPR itself is comprised of a hood and face shield to cover health care workers' head and shoulders. It also a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system that supplies a steady supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours. The air blower system, meanwhile, is similar to the fan used in the F-150's ventilated seats and is powered by a rechargeable battery.

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The first customer order to receive the new PAPRs is Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. Steve Schaefer, senior vice president of Support Services at the medical center, stated that they are very grateful to Ford and 3M for the shipment of new PAPRs. “This important equipment will help ensure the safety of our patients, doctors, nurses, and other members of the Virginia Mason care teams during the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Schaefer.

3M will sell and distribute the newly-designed Ford PAPR through 3M-authorized distributors to maximize speed and efficiency in deploying these devices to health care workers. Ford-built PAPRs can even be ordered directly from the automaker itself. 3M and Ford will donate any profits earned from the sale of the PAPR to COVID-19 related non-profit organizations.

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With the U.S. still having the most number of confirmed cases at 1,292,879, Ford's new PAPRs will surely help those working in the front line. Perhaps Ford can also lend a hand to other countries like the Philippines to give our health workers better protection against the deadly disease.