In the US, Ford, 3M and GE Healthcare are lending their expertise to expand production of medical equipment and supplies. In addition, Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and use its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in other personal protective equipment.
“This is such a critical time for America and the world. 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 Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman.
Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design using parts from both companies to meet the surge in demand. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.
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 is looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.
“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.”
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. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.
Mass producing masks
Ford’s design team is starting to test transparent full-face shields. The 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 first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Centre Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished by the weekend and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Michigan.
Ford is also evaluating a separate effort with the UK government to produce additional venitlators.
Meanwhile GM, Ventec Life Systems and StopTheSpread.org are collaborating to enable Ventec to increase production of its respiratory care products. “With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec Life Systems CEO. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”
So is anyone actually making cars now?
Production of Polestar 2 has officially begun in Luqiao, China. For initial delivery into Europe, followed by China and North America, the new fastback is the first electric vehicle to be produced by the facility.
“The world is facing enormous upheaval in the face of the coronavirus pandemic,” noted Polestar CEO, Thomas Ingenlath. “We start production now under these challenging circumstances, with a strong focus on the health and safety of our people. This is a great achievement and the result of huge efforts from the staff in the factory and the team securing the supply chain. I have a huge amount of respect for the entire team – thanks to them.”
Deliveries to customers are due to begin in the summer of 2020 on a market-by-market basis, starting in Europe and followed by China and North America.