Ford Motor Company is expanding its efforts to design and produce face masks, face shields, powered air-purifying respirators, reusable gowns, and test kits.
“We knew that to play our part helping combat coronavirus, we had to go like hell and join forces with experts like 3M to expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies, said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “In just three weeks under Project Apollo, we’ve unleashed our world-class manufacturing, purchasing and design talent to get scrappy and start making personal protection equipment and help increase the availability and production of ventilators.”
According to a statement from the company, Ford has produced more than 3 million face shields for medical personnel and first responders as of Apr 13.
The production has taken place at Ford’s Plymouth, Mich plant and globally at Ford facilities in Canada and Thailand and with Ford joint venture partner Mahindra & Mahindra in India.
Ford-designed an all-new powered air-purifying respirator production began Tuesday, April 14 at the company’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich. The facility has the capacity to make 100,000 or more PAPRs.
The newly designed PAPR includes a hood and face shield to cover healthcare professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours. The air blower system — similar to the fan found in F-150’s ventilated seats — is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.
Rapidly designing components and prototyping in accordance with federal guidelines and with 3M expert support and guidance, Ford teams reduced PAPR development time to less than four weeks.
Pending approval, 3M will distribute the newly designed PAPRs through its US network to help bring these technologies quickly and efficiently to health care workers who urgently need them.
3M and Ford will donate any profits they earn from the sale of the PAPR to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations, according to the company.
Face Mask Production
Meanwhile, Ford is now manufacturing face masks for internal use globally and pursuing certification for medical use at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant.
Approximately 30 UAW paid volunteers will start making masks in the plant’s ISO Class 8 cleanroom, which is a controlled environment with extremely low levels of pollutants, enabling the safe production of face masks for medical use. Eventually, approximately 80 UAW paid volunteers will make masks as production increases.
To help further protect healthcare workers, Ford is leading efforts to manufacture reusable gowns with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems. The go-fast project has created re-usable gowns manufactured from material used to make airbags in Ford vehicles.
Production of gowns will reach 75,000 gowns a week by Sunday and scale up to 100,000 gowns for the week of April 19 and beyond. By July 4, Ford-supplier Joyson Safety Systems will cut and sew 1.3 million gowns, which are self-tested to federal standards and are washable up to 50 times.
Ford worked with Beaumont Health in Metro Detroit to quickly design the gown pattern and test for sizing during fit and function trials. More than 5,000 gowns have already been delivered to the hospital.
Collection Kits for COVID-19 Tests
Lastly, Ford started providing manufacturing expertise to help scientific instrument provider Thermo Fisher Scientific quickly expand production of COVID-19 collection kits to test for the virus.
The Ford team also helped Thermo Fisher adapt machinery that currently runs glass vials for other products to run plastic vials required in drive-through coronavirus test collection.
“Ford’s engineers brought a fresh perspective to production expansion, and together, we’ll more than triple the number of collection kits we can deliver each week starting April 20,” said John Reuss, senior director, microbiology business for Thermo Fisher. “It’s great to see different industries coming together to solve a common problem.”