Ford, 3M team to make res­pi­ra­tors, ven­ti­la­tors

Plants also pro­duc­ing masks and face shields

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Phoebe Wall Howard Detroit Free Press USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Ford Mo­tor Com­pany an­nounced Tues­day that it will join the ef­fort to “speed pro­duc­tion” of res­pi­ra­tors to help fight the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

The Dear­born, Michi­gan-based au­tomaker said in a state­ment that it’s col­lab­o­rat­ing with 3M to man­u­fac­ture “Pow­ered Air-Pu­ri­fy­ing Res­pi­ra­tors.” The two are work­ing on a “new de­sign lever­ag­ing parts from both com­pa­nies,” ac­cord­ing to Ford.

It is pos­si­ble Ford will pro­duce the new res­pi­ra­tor in a Ford fa­cil­ity in Michi­gan.

Dis­cus­sions have been in­tense over the last four days, of­fi­cials said in a con­fer­ence call.

Ford engi­neers are play­ing a key role in the ef­fort and us­ing parts that are cur­rently used in the best-sell­ing F-150 pickup, the com­pany said in a call.

Other au­tomak­ers, in­clud­ing Gen­eral Mo­tors and Tesla, have also taken steps to help pro­duce med­i­cal equip­ment, in­clud­ing ven­ti­la­tors.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has pro­cured more than 1,200 ven­ti­la­tors from China and will dis­trib­ute them for free to U.S. hos­pi­tals.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Ford said in the re­lease it is try­ing to ex­pand GE Health­care’s pro­duc­tion of their cur­rent ven­ti­la­tor, which is used to help pa­tients who have dif­fi­culty breath­ing.

No time­lines are con­firmed, though the com­pa­nies are work­ing as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Hourly work­ers rep­re­sented by the United Auto Work­ers union will play a key role, too.

Ford and its work­ers will make more than 100,000 plas­tic face shields weekly at a Ford plant, the au­tomaker said.

The com­pany will also use its 3D print­ing ma­chin­ery to make dis­pos­able res­pi­ra­tors for health care work­ers.

“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,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, in a state­ment.

“At Ford, we feel a deep obli­ga­tion to step up and con­trib­ute in times of need, just as we al­ways have through the 117-year his­tory of our com­pany.”

The re­lease said: “Ford and 3M have been look­ing for 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.”

In a “To­day” show ap­pear­ance on Tues­day, Bill Ford ex­plained the com­pany plan in de­tail:

“We ac­tu­ally have four big ef­forts go­ing.

“One is we’re work­ing with GE on ven­ti­la­tors to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the ca­pa­bil­ity they have to de­liver th­ese in num­bers. We’re also work­ing with 3M for air pu­ri­fy­ing res­pi­ra­tors. We’re go­ing to help them dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the pro­duc­tion of those.

“And then in-house we’re also do­ing face shields, try­ing to pro­duce hun­dreds of thou­sands of those a week and N95 masks. We’re 3D print­ing them.”

The Ford fam­ily has a his­tory of re­spond­ing to na­tional ef­forts in times of cri­sis.

In a tweet, Ford’s North Amer­ica Prod­uct Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Mike Levine showed sketches of the res­pi­ra­tor.

In an­other tweet, he showed the face shield Ford de­sign­ers cre­ated.

In a third tweet, Levine showed a go-fast hood pro­to­type.

“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.” Bill Ford, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Ford Mo­tor Co., in a state­ment.

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