By on March 24, 2020


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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20 Comments on “Ford and Coronavirus: Automaker Announces Partnership With 3M, GE Healthcare...”

  • avatar

    Well done.

  • avatar

    I’d still prefer a Toyota ventilator…

    • 0 avatar

      Do you want 492 Tiger II’s, or 49,234 Shermans?

      (Yeah, I know – the correct answer is “I want 84,070 T-34’s.”)

      • 0 avatar

        The Russians found their Shermans to be more reliable and easier to service than their T-34’s.

        And then you had the Jeeps, trucks, B-24 bombers and untold other materials Ford alone cranked out.

        They’ve done it before, they can do it again. But so can the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, et al. They’ll all be needed.

    • 0 avatar

      True, you would hate for your near-new ventilator to be recalled.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’d still prefer a Toyota ventilator…”

      I’d still prefer if we couldn’t devolve into yet another “I’m awesome because of the brands I like” p!ssing match.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      “I’d still prefer a Toyota ventilator…”

      Pass. Underneath it is probably just a BMW ventilator and I don’t want to be hooked up to that once the warranty is up.

      “It is working fine sir…clearly you are just breathing incorrectly”

      • 0 avatar

        “It is working fine sir…clearly you are just breathing incorrectly”. That would be a Honda produced ventilator from a company that always builds excellent quality products that only fail due to owner misuse/abuse.

  • avatar

    “To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have
    been resourcefully locating off-the-shelf parts”

    FORD – Finding Oral Respirator Devices ;-)

  • avatar

    If the goal is small quantities of “good enough” done fast you’d be better off going with a prototyping facility. Doing that is a special skill that’s not usually found in a high-volume company.

    If it’s high-volume production lots of finely-finished product then that’ll take time. There is an amazing amount of manufacturing engineering and line setup, fixturing, purchasing, testing to spec, standards compliance, configuration management, training etc required for what, to the unpracticed eye might look like simple devices.

  • avatar

    I’m gratified to see some Can Do attitude instead of Can’t Do mumping. Will these be as durable as the fully FDA-vetted ones? Who knows? But they will be available, unlike the limited stock of the current ones. Wouldn’t it be a kick if they were as reliable and effective as the $25K to $50K government blessed ones?

    Here’s an account of some Kalashnikov level design by maker collaboration

    @ToolGuy – 84,070 T-34’s truly is the correct answer

    • 0 avatar

      In the current situation, there is a great need to trade requirements and regulation for speed to market. For the sake of patients, I hope the trade-offs have no negative consequences to the patients.

      • 0 avatar

        The Respirators are for health care staff not patients. Using a seat fan as an air pump obviously means that the standards for respirators aren’t as tight as those for a ventilator attached to a patient.

        MIT has come up with a simple ventilator that provides basic airway pressure control while using a manual resuscitator bag-valve-mask device.

        If companies can come up with more basic devices that cover patients with less complex ventilator requirements that will save the sophisticated ventilators for the sickest patients.

        Experts state that one first needs to slow the rate of spread to give time to build up the medical system to cope with the patient load and then to slowly release containment measures at a rate that allows the health care system to absorb patients. That is what China is doing now.

        • 0 avatar

          Excellent summary of ventilator requirements is at this link:

          “This is a specification of the minimally (and some preferred options) clinically acceptable ventilator to be used in UK hospitals during the current SARS-CoV2 outbreak. It sets out the clinical requirements based on the consensus of what is ‘minimally acceptable’ performance in the opinion of the anaesthesia and intensive care medicine professionals and medical device regulators.”

    • 0 avatar

      Agree completely. Though I don’t care for Ford product generally, remembering they did not take a bailout in 2008, along with this action, makes me think all Gov’t vehicles for the next century should be FORD.

  • avatar

    They’ll have a blue oval and “Ford Tough” on them, but that’s OK. Brand awareness. How Corona got the naming rights for the virus – brilliant.

  • avatar

    Toyota Coronas (or Crowns in English) vs Ford ventilators to fight Corona virus.
    Which one wins?

  • avatar

    The GM project is simply GM doing the logistics to help Ventric ramp up production.

    Their product VOCSN, is a interesting model that is portable, and designed for use ‘home to hospital’.

    It looks to me that it could be used to turn a regular hospital bed into a emergency CCU unit.

    • 0 avatar

      “VOCSN’s name comes from the five devices it contains: a ventilator, oxygen concentrator, cough assist device, suction unit and nebulizer, used to give medicine in a mist form. Everything is designed to be portable, and the whole pack weighs about 18 pounds — compared with the 55 pounds of five separate, standard devices.”

      Building in an oxygen concentrator is brilliant.

      Joint statement:

      • 0 avatar

        @ToolGuy – Those devices would be more suitable for people with less advanced COVID-19 disease. They would still be of benefit since that would leave more sophisticated ventilators for advanced ARDS cases.

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