Ford has started production on a new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designed and developed in collaboration with 3M. The equipment will be manufactured in the factories of Ford that have halted automobile productions due to the coronavirus pandemic that has led to lockdowns across nations.
Ford has put its technical and marketing and manufacturing manpower at the disposal of 3M to help accelerate the process of designing the respiratory equipment. The PAPR has been designed in four weeks in accordance with the federal guidelines and with the help of technical experts at 3M and Ford.
The Ford and 3M teams have been resourceful in using off the shelf parts used in auto assembling and production 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 will be manufacturing these new-generation PAPRs at the Van Dyke Transmission plant.
This personal protective equipment (PPE) will help protect health care professionals on the front lines fighting COVID-19. “3M is dedicated to helping protect our heroic health care workers and first responders globally, including sharing our scientific expertise to increase supply of needed PPE,” said Bernard Cicut, vice president, 3M Personal Safety Division. “We are proud to stand together with Ford in this effort, as they have helped us increase manufacturing of existing 3M PPE products and, together, we have rapidly designed a new PAPR to help protect these heroes.” The equipment is awaiting approval from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) limited-use protocol to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. It is expected that the PAPR will pass inspection and get approval by end-April.
Plans are afoot to distribute the newly designed PAPRs through 3M’s US distribution network. With this collaboration, Ford and 3M were able to increase the output of PAPRs and N95 respirators at 3M’s U.S.-based manufacturing facilities. 3M and Ford will donate any profits they earn from the sale of the PAPRs to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.
Ford is also working with GE Healthcare to manufacture a simplified version of GE’s existing ventilator to help patients fighting acute respiratory syndrome due to the virus. “We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said 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 unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs.”
Ford is also manufacturing more than 100,000 plastic shields per week with UAW. Again a Ford factory site will be used to manufacture these shields to help medical professionals and factory workers and others engaged at the frontlines of combating the pandemic. The automaker has also teamed up with JoysonSafety Systems to make hospital gowns out of the material used in airbags. They intend to supply near about 1.5 million gowns by the end of July.
“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 vital equipment,” said 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.”