Roughly 90 paid United Auto Workers volunteers will assemble respirators at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich. The operation will have the ability to churn out more than 100,000 of the respirators, which 3M will distribute through its U.S. network in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Ford and 3M said they will 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 provided guidance to the respirator development team. Ford said it expects to achieve temporary, limited NIOSH approval by the end of the month.
The news comes weeks after Ford said it was forming a partnership with 3M amid the coronavirus pandemic to increase the production of 3M’s PAPRs. Since then, Ford has had manufacturing, purchasing and supply chain experts embedded at 3M plants — helping to boost the production of PAPRs and N95 respirators.
“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, VP of 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,” Baumbik said in a news release.
Ford is also engaging in other efforts against the pandemic:
- The automaker, in collaboration with the UAW, is producing face masks at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant for internal use globally— is and seeking certification for medical use;
- Ford is also making reusable gowns with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems, with production expected to reach 100,000 a week later this month;
- There are also efforts to help Ford is helping Thermo Fisher Scientific scale production of collection kits for COVID-19 tests.