Published: Tue, March 24, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

3M could make more N95 respirators in Ford factories

3M could make more N95 respirators in Ford factories

US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that US automakers General Motors Co, Ford, and Tesla Inc had been given the green light to produce ventilators and other items needed during the coronavirus outbreak.

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. "Nobody's talked about the financial implications of this because this is a national emergency and we'll sort all that out later".

Separately, Ford is designing and testing transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders.

Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture disposable respirators, which are needed to help filter the air healthcare workers and first responders breathe. "Obviously, the White House has put a call out for companies to help. But frankly, we were doing this, getting all this in motion, before that".

"We have had preliminary discussions with the USA and United Kingdom governments and looking into the feasibility", Ford spokesperson Rachel McCleery said at the time in a statement to TechCrunch. "Millions of masks coming as back up to States".

It said companies controlled by Exor bought 150 ventilators and other medical equipment overseas, provided vehicles for support of people in need and were in touch with Italian authorities to help them buy medical equipment and healthcare products overseas.

"We got four different work streams going and we're going as fast as we can", Ford said.

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"We're working on ventilators, even though I think there will not be a shortage by the time we can make enough to matter".

Ford, which suspended factory production along with other automakers with operations in North America, confirmed that it was in discussions with the Trump administration about helping. The automaker said it's "assessing various options" and working with its unions "on the optimal timing for resuming vehicle production, keeping the well-being of our workforce top of mind".

Ford expects to manufacture about 75,000 of these shields by the end of this week and then produce more than 100,000 face shields per week.

The first ventilator should be completed by early June, Ford CEO Jim Hackett told CBS This Morning.

To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully locating 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.

Ford said that his company is trying to "dramatically increase" the production of N95 respirators.

Its efforts include building Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) with partner 3M, including a new design that employs existing parts from both partners to deliver effectiveness and highly scalable production capacity.

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