In the last two months, several automakers in the United States stopped their operations in a move to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Among these are three of the biggest car companies in America: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, and Ford.
But while most of these automakers’ factories were temporarily closed, some of their facilities remained open as part of an effort to produce much-needed medical equipment for medical workers at the frontlines.
Ford was one of the companies that pledged to produce respirators for medical workers in the U.S. In mid-April, the automaker announced it is building a power air-purifying respirator (PAPR) that will be manufactured in its Vreeland plant in Michigan.
The design of the PAPR, which includes a hood and face shield, was done in partnership with 3M. It uses fans from the F-150’s cooled seating system and HEPA air filters from 3M, allowing the device to supply air for up to eight hours.
And less than 40 days since they started developing the design, Ford and 3M shared the news that they have started shipping respirators to healthcare workers. This is after the two companies secured approval from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“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,” said Marcy Fisher, Ford Director for Global Body Exterior and Interior Engineering.
Ford said it is capable of building more than 100,000 units of the PAPRs. Aside from that, the automaker is also working with Thermo Fisher Scientific to manufacture reusable medical gowns made out of airbag material and with GE in building ventilators at the Blue Oval’s Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Moreover, the company has shipped a total of 3 million face masks as of the end of April.