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Ford Expanding Production of Coronavirus Supplies at US Assembly Plants

04/14/2020
Ford is expanding its efforts to design and produce urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for health care workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus.

In addition to the current production of more than 3 million face shields in Plymouth, Michigan, Ford-designed powered air-purifying respirator production begins April 14. Ford also is now producing face masks and leading an effort to scale production of reusable gowns for health care workers. Lastly, Ford started providing manufacturing expertise to help scientific instrument provider Thermo Fisher Scientific quickly expand production of COVID-19 collection kits to test for the virus.

“We knew that to play our part helping combat coronavirus, we had to go like hell and join forces with experts like 3M to expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “In just three weeks under Project Apollo, we’ve unleashed our world-class manufacturing, purchasing and design talent to get scrappy and start making personal protection equipment and help increase the availability and production of ventilators.”

Ford will start producing an all-new PAPR design to help protect healthcare professionals on the front lines fighting COVID-19. Rapidly designing components and prototyping in accordance with federal guidelines and with 3M expert support and guidance, Ford teams reduced PAPR development time to less than four weeks.

Approximately 90 paid UAW volunteers will assemble PAPRs at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan, with the ability to make 100,000 or more.

The newly designed PAPR includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to 8 hours. 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.

The development team has been supported by the CDC’s NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory. NIOSH provided timely guidance to Ford and other US manufacturers to encourage the development of protective public health emergency PAPRs to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Ford expects to achieve the temporary, limited NIOSH approval by the end of April.

Meanwhile, Ford is now manufacturing face masks for internal use globally and pursuing certification for medical use at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant. Face masks can help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

Approximately 30 UAW paid volunteers will start making masks in the plant’s ISO Class 8 cleanroom, which is a controlled environment with extremely low levels of pollutants, enabling the safe production of face masks for medical use. Eventually, approximately 80 UAW paid volunteers will make masks as production increases. To help further protect health care workers, Ford is leading efforts to manufacture reusable gowns with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems. The go-fast project has created reusable gowns manufactured from material used to make airbags in Ford vehicles.

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