Ford will work with GE Healthcare to expand production of a simplified version of the company’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or who have difficulty breathing.
The Ford Motor Company will also work with technology specialist 3M to manufacture Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) used by first responders and health care workers.
In a separate facility, Ford will assemble more than 100,000 plastic face shields per week – to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks avoid contracting COVID-19.
“This is such a critical time for America and the world,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman, in a prepared media statement.
“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 Mr Ford, the great grandson of company founder Henry Ford.
“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.”
To expedite development, the Ford-made PAPRs will use off-the-shelf parts such as fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats.
“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO.
“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs. 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.”
Meanwhile, Ford’s US design team come up with 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 Ford statement said.
“The first 1000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals,” the Ford statement continued.
“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.”
It is not the first time Ford or the automotive industry have been deployed in times of crisis.
US car makers were instrumental in manufacturing military equipment, planes and vehicles for World War II efforts.
After WWII ended, Ford used its expertise to manufacture an iron lung (pictured above), in 1948, for polio victims aged seven to 12. The iron lung was built in just 10 days and saved countless lives.
A newspaper report at the time said: “Since most of the iron lung is made of rubber and plexiglass, the (Ford) plastics plant has done the major portion of the work. A metal frame, made by the Tool and Die building employees, supports it.”