They are not Thunderbirds or Mustangs, but the latest products to roll off the Ford assembly line will be a welcome relief to Americans fighting the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Ford began producing air-purifying respirators that it designed.
The famed vehicle manufacturer is also making face masks for health care workers, and assisting in the development of reusable gowns for medical personnel that can be produced on a mass scale.
“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, Jim Baumbick, vice president for Ford Enterprise Product Line Management, said in a news release.
“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,” he said.
Ford and 3M began teaming up last month.
According to Bernard Cicut, vice president for 3M’s Personal Safety Division: “3M is dedicated to helping to protect our heroic health care workers and first responders globally, including sharing our scientific expertise to increase supply of needed PPE.”
“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,” he said.
One of the main accomplishments of the partnership was the development of a battery-powered blower known as a PAPR, or powered air-purifying respirator, that will help health care workers avoid breathing contaminated air.
“By working collaboratively with 3M to quickly combine more than 100 years of Ford manufacturing and engineering expertise with personal protection equipment design and expertise, we’re getting much-needed technology into the hands of frontline medical workers to help when they need it most,” Marcy Fisher, Ford’s director of Global Body Exterior and Interior Engineering, said.
Members of the United Auto Workers union will be using their expertise to make PAPRs and face masks.
“UAW Ford members continue to step up and volunteer to work during this difficult time as we expand at the facility across from Flat Rock to make respirators and at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant to make face masks for medical use,” Gerald Kariem, vice president of UAW’s Ford Department, said.
“The UAW also continues to work with Ford to follow stringent CDC guidelines and go above and beyond protections for these members who are so proudly volunteering to serve their communities and their nation,” he added.
Ford is working with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems to make reusable hospital gowns from the same material used to manufacture airbags for Ford vehicles. Starting next week, Ford expects to be able to produce 100,000 gowns a week.
“The need to protect our medical teams is heightened — Ford’s gown production could not come at a better time during this crisis,” David Claeys, president of Beaumont Health hospitals in Dearborn and Farmington Hills, said. “Our front line health care workers are working around the clock to treat COVID-19 patients and we need the necessary supplies to support them.”
Moreover, Ford is collaborating with Thermo Fisher Scientific to help scale up production of COVID-19 testing kits.
“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,” John Reuss, senior director for microbiology business at Thermo Fisher, said. “It’s great to see different industries coming together to solve a common problem.”
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