Workers assemble cars at Ford’s Assembly Plant in Chicago, June 24, 2019.
Jim Young | AFP via Getty Images
Ford announced Tuesday it will partner with 3M and GE Healthcare to begin producing face masks and ventilators to help fill potential shortages caused by the coronavirus.
Ford will work with 3M to manufacture a newly designed respirator and boost production of 3M’s powered air-purifying respirator, which uses a blower instead of lung power to draw air through the filter. Ford said unionized employees will be able to manufacture the new respirators.
Ford and GE Healthcare will begin manufacturing a “simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design” to aid patients who may experience trouble breathing caused by COVID-19.
Ford said it is looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing plants while the ventilators could be produced at a Ford site in addition to a GE location. Ford said the new initiative ties to a request for help from the U.S. government.
“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,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford said.
The company said its U.S. design team is also creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders to pair with N95 masks. The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals.
The company said it will employ UAW workers to assemble more than 100,000 of the plastic face shields per week at a Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks.
Other companies have launched similar efforts, including General Motors, which announced Friday it will lend its auto factories to support Ventec Life Systems’ production of ventilators.