Ford joins 3M, GE in speeding up ventilator, respirator production

Ford joins 3M GE in speeding up ventilator respirator production

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"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.

Ford and GE don't yet have a timeline, or estimates of production capacity for the new types of ventilators they're working on either, but the team is "working feverishly to get to the release point", according to GE Healthcare VP and Chief Quality Officer Tom Westrick.

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.

Separately, Ford will work with 3M to boost manufacturing capacity of its air-purifying respirators to meet a surge in demand for first responders and health care workers.

Additionally, Ford said its U.S. design team was starting to test transparent full-face shields for first responders, which when paired with N95 respirator masks, could be an effective way of limiting exposure to the coronavirus.

It is also trying to 3D-print disposable respirators for healthcare workers and first responders but will need regulatory approval. "Although, obviously this is of utmost importance to both us and Ford".

Teams are also working jointly to develop a new PAPR design using parts like fans borrowed from the Ford F-150's cooled seats, 3M HEPA air filters and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours.

Ventilators are a key item in the treatment of COVID-19.

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

Bill Ford said the company started cooperating with 3M and GE before the White House asked American companies to help produce medical supplies. 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.

"We're testing face shields this week in Detroit-area hospitals to make sure they work and then we can ramp up pretty quickly", Ford said.

Dave Jacek, 3D printing technician, unloads 3D printed medical face shield parts at Ford's Advanced Manufacturing Center.

The collaboration, which Ford dubbed "Project Apollo" after the Apollo 13 spacecraft rescue mission, will help GE and 3M scale their existing efforts to provide critical products to hospitals being taxed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Ford is also working with GE Healthcare to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare's existing ventilator for sick patients.

Details: Ford is working on multiple fronts to help the companies increase production of their own products, and innovating some of its own solutions. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.

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