Ford F-150 playing a role in new respirator design for COVID-19 patients

Thanks to the addition of a high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost® V6 engine, the 2019 Ford F-150 Limited is the most powerful light-duty pickup in America
Thanks to the addition of a high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost® V6 engine, the 2019 Ford F-150 Limited is the most powerful light-duty pickup in America

Ford and 3M are leaning on the iconic F-150 to help in the all-important battle against the coronavirus.

Ford announced this week that it teamed up with 3M and GE Healthcare to lend its manufacturing and engineering expertise to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus.

Ford team members are working with 3M to step up production of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surge demand for first responders and health care workers. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

To help speed up production, Ford and 3M have turned to off-the-shelf parts like fans used to cool the seats in the F-150 and 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as tiny droplets that carry virus particles. Portable tool battery packs can power the respirators for up to eight hours.

A design for 3M’s respirator that includes a fan used for seat ventilation in the F-150A design for 3M’s respirator that includes a fan used for seat ventilation in the F-150

Ford is looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

In addition, Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. 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. “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.”

In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.

“We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said GE Healthcare President & CEO Kieran Murphy. “We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs.”

Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.

Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team also is quickly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids and when paired with N95 respirators can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than N95 respirators alone.

The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.

Ford is evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the U.K. government to produce additional ventilators.

In China, Ford of China joint venture partner Jiangling Motors also has donated 10 specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat coronavirus.

Ford has also kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.

Additional companies and individuals who are interested in contributing to this effort can submit their information here at www.fordnewideas.com.

Ford, along with the companies it is supporting, will provide additional updates as these special projects progress.