During World War II, Ford Motor Company, along with factories of other industries, switched from producing civilian vehicles to vehicles required for the war effort – aircraft, gliders, generators, etc. It was a time when the whole world was in crisis – just like now when the COVID-19 coronavirus is attacking every country.
Once again, Ford (and also other companies) is providing its manufacturing and engineering expertise as well as factories to help produce urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers and patients fighting the coronavirus.
“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s Executive Chairman. “At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”
Powered air-purifying respirators
Ford is working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surging demand.
To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully locating off-the-shelf parts 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 8 hours.
These new-generation PAPRs could be produced at one of its manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold at this crucial time.
Expanding production of ventilators
In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location, increasing the number that can be supplied to hospitals.
“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.”
Respirators and face shields
Meanwhile, Ford’s US design team also is quickly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids and, when paired with N95 respirators, can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than N95 respirators alone.
Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.