Production began April 13 at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich., after 40 days of development, according to 3M. 3M said it will sell and distribute the PAPRs through its authorized distributors, but customers can also order them directly from Ford. The companies have pledged to donate the profits from the respirators to nonprofits combatting COVID-19.
The newly designed PAPR includes a hood and face shield that covers the heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency filter system can provide filtered air for up to 8 hours. The air blower system is similar to the fan found in the Ford F-150’s ventilated seats. A rechargeable, portable battery powers the respirator, enabling almost constant use.
The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provided guidance to the respirator development team. Ford subsequently won temporary approval under NIOSH’s limited-use protocol to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Ford could not stand by while health care workers in this country placed their lives on the line to help others without even having proper protection,” said Jim Baumbick, VP of Ford enterprise product line management, in a news release. “That’s why we kicked off an all-out sprint to protect those who are so selflessly helping patients afflicted with this terrible virus.”
“We are dedicated to helping support and protect the health care workers fighting COVID-19,” added Bernard Cicut, VP of 3M’s personal safety division. “We thank Ford for partnering with us to quickly develop and deliver more of these critical health care supplies to the heroes working on the frontlines of this unprecedented health crisis.”
Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., is the first customer to order and take delivery of the PAPRs.
Separately, Ford said the state of New Jersey has ordered 500,000 reusable gowns for healthcare workers. Weekly production of the gowns has reached 200,000 and more than 400,000 have been shipped around the United States, Ford noted in a news release.