By on April 13, 2020


It’s a temporary foray in a wholly new direction, but Ford’s new line of products is picking up steam — with one new item ready to enter production on Tuesday.

Place the cynical, always suspicious side of your brain on pause for a moment and see what the Blue Oval is doing for your health. 

Like those of most other auto manufacturers, Ford’s idled workers and facilities are being put to use cranking out much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle. The automakers went into the effort voluntarily, though you read last week how rival General Motors was ordered to produce ventilators via a massive federal contract and a piece of legislation (GM’s initiative was already underway at the time).

On Monday, Ford issued an update on how things are going. Most notably, Ford announced it has crafted, with the help of partner 3M, a new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) that’s ready to enter production April 14th. Designed and readied for production in four weeks, the unit will be built by 90 UAW workers at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan.


The PAPR (seen above, disassembled and not) “includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours,” the automaker said in a statement. “The air blower system – similar to the fan found in F-150’s ventilated seats – is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.”

While Ford says it has the capacity to build 100,000 of these, the unit first needs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approval, which it says it expects before the end of the month.

Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan is tasked with building 3 million face masks. Some 30 UAW workers are on that job, with their numbers expected to grow to 80. The automaker also teamed with supplier Joyson Safety Systems to construct hospital gowns out of airbag material; Ford says output should reach 75,000 per week by this coming weekend, and 100,000 thereafter. The supplier aims to supply 1.3 million gowns by the beginning of July.

Elsewhere, engineers from Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant are working with Thermo Fisher Scientific to boost output of COVID-19 collection kits. As well, some 3 million plastic face shields have already rolled out of Ford factories in the U.S., Canada, Thailand, and India, and a GE Healthcare ventilator — a piece of hardware that’s key to keeping critical patients alive — will enter production at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Michigan next week. Production should reach 50,000 by Independence Day. A similar effort, though with a different partner, is underway in hard-hit UK.

Hopefully things will have diminished to something approaching normalcy by the time people start speaking of July the 4th.

[Images: Ford]

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17 Comments on “Ford’s New Business Is Coming Along...”

  • avatar

    Good news for Ford. Their non-truck porfolio really is not up to snuff. Saw my first non-car-show Explorer and Escape this weekend and I can assure you I’d never consider either – putrid looking.

  • avatar

    Automotive News says GM starts production of ventilators this week too.

  • avatar

    If it takes so long to manufacture face masks how did Apple get 20 million at one time??

  • avatar

    Hopefully the quality in these units is not anywhere near as low as Ford vehicles and the launch of these products is better than the Explorer and MKExplorer.

  • avatar


    Once/if the pandemic ends, I want one. Even for more mundane tasks like leaf blowing, fumigation and other stuff. Powered, which I assume means positive pressure, ones, are eons ahead of the pieces of cloth which requires registered-nurse levels of training to fit in a leak proof fashion. They should also be less prone to fogging.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but give me a swapable battery that gives me ~2 hrs. I’m not going to use it 8 hours at a time, and can take the time to swap it if I need to or just put a fresh one after a break.

      • 0 avatar

        Can anyone tell us (with authority) that a HEPA filter will filter out the coronavirus? They are .125 microns (125 nanometers) across.
        HEPA filters and N95 masks filter down to 0.3 microns… and the home-made polyester/cotton masks sewn from leftover fabric scraps are probably only good for keeping Suzie Homemaker busy for a few hours.

        • 0 avatar

          If making a personal mask with a couple layers of fabric is recommeded thrn almost any filter will work.

        • 0 avatar


          HEPA goes down to 0.01 microns (at close to 100% efficiency – better than the 0.3 stuff), but there is more to it:

          The heinous detail (highlight – see Figure 3):

          And to further challenge your thought patterns, the “Shaker felt” bags on the dust collection system in my shop start off life as 3 micron but improve to as much as 0.1 micron in use:

  • avatar

    I actually find these products more attractive and appealing than many of their automotives offerings just prior.

  • avatar

    SWEET ! .

    I want one for riding my Motocycle .

    I hope they’re not being made in the same plant that used to make the exploding slush boxes out of balsa wood….


  • avatar

    GM said it has added two additional production lines to its plant in Warren: one for face masks and the other for filtering facepiece respirators. GM said it partnered with existing auto suppliers to provide materials and equipment to make the masks, including a mask line custom-built by JR Automation and Esys Automation, two Michigan-based auto suppliers. The automaker also enlisted Goshen, Indiana-based GDC, which makes sound-deadening insulation used in doors, headliners and trunks, to supply it with fabric. That company in turn worked with OXCO in South Carolina to develop three layers of fabric used to make the masks.

    GM says it converted its shuttered plant over to mask production in less than seven days.


  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    All of this is great. But why do I think Ford and GM are going to ramp up production just in time to be late for the worst of this pandemic?

  • avatar

    “While Ford says it has the capacity to build 100,000 of these, the unit first needs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approval, which it says it expects before the end of the month.”

    It’s going to take another . . . 17 days . . . for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to look this over? I’d like to know what lo’ NIOSH needs to do that takes that long. I’m all ears, here.

    Convince me this can’t be done faster.

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