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Ford Building Respirators and Gowns to Help Combat COVID-19

Posted at Thu, May 21, 2020 8:00 AM

Since late March, Ford has been working to create urgently-needed respirators with off-the-shelf parts, like vehicle ventilator fans and power tool batteries. 

The first Ford-built respirators, developed in close collaboration with 3M, are protecting health care workers fighting COVID-19.

Approximately 90 paid volunteers have assembled more than 10,000 respirators at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich., with the ability to make 100,000 more.

Additionally, Ford is using its resources to distribute 200,000 reusable medical gowns to the front lines every week.

Rows of boxes filled with personal protective equipment made by Ford wait to be shipped from Ford subsidiary Troy Design & Manufacturing. (Image Courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

Rows of boxes filled with personal protective equipment made by Ford wait to be shipped from Ford subsidiary Troy Design & Manufacturing. (Image Courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

“Ford could not stand by while health care workers in this country placed their lives on the line to help others without even having proper protection,” Jim Baumbick, vice president of Ford’s Enterprise Product Line Management, said. “That’s why we kicked off an all-out sprint to protect those who are so selflessly helping patients afflicted with this terrible virus.”

3M is collaborating with Ford on the production of these respirators and is planning to increase the capacity of its own respirator production by ten-fold within the next several months.

Moving Fast to Help Those Who Need It Most

In less than 40 days, Ford’s Product Development team designed the new respirator, combining vehicle air conditioning expertise with 3M’s knowledge of medical devices. Hand-drawn concepts of the Ford respirator were created one day after starting the project. Ford’s engineers also leveraged vehicle seat trim expertise to design the respirator’s hood. Ford’s team also prototyped the respirator using 3D printing and worked with suppliers to procure and produce components. 

The respirator includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency filter system provides a supply of filtered air for as long as 8 hours. 

The air blower system – similar to the fan in the Ford F-150’s ventilated seats – is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.

But Ford and 3M can’t take all the credit for this remarkable feat. More than 10 companies from across Ford’s automotive supply chain are providing new and off-the-shelf parts for use in the respirators. Components include hood tops for the wearer’s head and shoulders, filters and fans for supplying filtered air, power electronics, switches, foam seals and more.

Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., is the first organization to order and take delivery of the Ford-built respirators.

3M and Ford will donate any profits they earn from the sale of the respirators to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.

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Images courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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