Ford and Coronavirus: Automaker Announces Partnership With 3M, GE Healthcare

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
ford and coronavirus automaker announces partnership with 3m ge healthcare

A national health crisis has prompted Ford to go into the PPE (personal protective equipment) and ventilator business.

Tuesday morning, the automaker announced a joint effort with 3M, GE Healthcare, and its UAW-represented workers to bolster production of the life-saving gear — at the same time not missing an opportunity for a little self-promotion.

The effort is three-pronged: Ford intends to assemble plastic face masks, a simplified version of GE’s ventilator, and Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) at unnamed Blue Oval facilities in the U.S.

With time being of the essence, some improvisation is in order. About those PAPRs:

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.

Ford’s aim is to get these masks into production in Michigan ASAP, potentially expanding 3M’s output tenfold. Face shield production is projected to hit 100,000 a week — once a trial run of an in-house design wraps up at Detroit-area hospitals this week. Less is said about the ventilators, which Ford says “could” be manufactured at a U.S. plant, in addition to the GE facility.

“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs,” said CEO Jim Hackett in a statement. “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.”

Detroit rivals General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have also announced manufacturing efforts aimed at curbing shortages arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, timing is critical, as some U.S. locales, namely New York City, are expected to surpass ICU patient capacity this week. Ventilators will be needed for the sickest patients, and no patient gets treated if the doctors and nurses are sickened due to lack of protection.

Naturally, Ford played up its commitment to past public health efforts, as is its right. That heritage includes such 1940s efforts as building iron lungs for polio patients and incubators for premature babies.

[Image: Ford]

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