Ford is working with 3M and GE to produce respirators and ventilators, and the UAW to make medical equipment, as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies

ReutersVentilators being tested.
  • Ford will work with 3M, GE, and the UAW to make respirators, ventilators and medical face shields.
  • “This is such a critical time for America and the world,” Ford chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ford announced Tuesday that it would work with 3M to produce respirators, GE to build ventilators, and the United Auto Workers to ramp up production of plastic medical face shields, all to combat the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world,” Ford chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.

“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.”

Ford CEO Jim Hackett added: “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.”

In addition to using its 3D-printing capabilities for face shields, Ford is looking to repurpose components that currently go into vehicles to make respirators and ventilators, and could use its factories to produce the much-needed products.

“Ford is working with 3M to manufacture at scale Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs),” the carmaker said.

It added that “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.”

The automaker has shutdown nearly all its global production in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Ford stressed the efforts of the United Auto Workers in the undertaking.

“Our UAW partners have been inspirational,” Ford vice-president Jim Baumbick said on a conference call with the media after the news was announced. “We’re leveraging UAW partners to help us produce parts and equipment at very challenging times. This the fabric of who were are”

Repurposing existing components

Ford and 3M are looking to increase production of respirators tenfold.

“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 eight hours,” the companies said.

“We’ve been inundated with offers to help,” Mike Kesti, 3M global technical director, said. “We’re focused on scale. Ford can help us with that and increase our bandwidth to respond.”

Tom Westrick, GE’s chief quality officer, said that the partnership could rapidly expand production of a simplified ventilator for “needs specifically related to COVID-19. He added that that an anesthesia device GE already produces could be used a a ventilator and “provide immediate assistance.”

He indicated, however, that a specific timeline for a new ventilators had not yet been fully developed.

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