Friday, 08 May 2020 00:21

Ford and 3M Now Shipping Powered Air-Purifying Respirators to Health Care Workers


The first Ford-built powered air-purifying respirators, developed in close collaboration with 3M, are on their way to help protect health care workers fighting COVID-19.

Since late March, Ford has been working with 3M to create urgently needed PAPRs, using design guidance from 3M and off-the-shelf parts, like vehicle ventilator fans and power tool batteries.


In a separate effort, 500,000 reusable medical gowns distributed by Ford will soon be on their way to the state of New Jersey.


“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, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “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,” said Bernard Cicut, vice president, 3M 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.”


3M is a leading provider of personal protective equipment, including powered air-purifying respirators. Demand for 3M PAPRs is exceeding supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through partnerships with companies like Ford and others, 3M plans to increase capacity of its own PAPRs by ten-fold within the next several months.


Ford and 3M have worked closely with Ford’s automotive supply chain to progress the new PAPR from idea to product in fewer than 40 days.


Ford’s Product Development team moved quickly to design the new PAPR, combining vehicle air conditioning expertise with 3M’s knowledge of medical devices. Hand-drawn concepts of the Ford PAPR were created one day after starting the project. Ford’s engineers also leveraged vehicle seat trim expertise to design the PAPR hood.


In parallel, Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing team rapidly prototyped the PAPR using 3D printing, while the Ford Purchasing team worked with suppliers to procure and produce components and the Ford Manufacturing team designed the production process. Assembly lines and production of PAPRs started within three weeks of the initial request.


The PAPR includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for as long as eight hours. The air blower system---similar to the fan in the Ford F-150’s ventilated seats---is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.


Approximately 90 paid UAW volunteers have assembled more than 10,000 PAPRs at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, MI, with the ability to make 100,000 or more.


One of the proud UAW workers is Michele Strong, a team leader volunteering in Ford’s Vreeland facility. Now at almost 43 years with the company, Strong has worked in both Flat Rock Assembly Plant and the Rouge complex. Strong maintains a perfect attendance record---she wasn’t about to stop now.


“I’m proud of all of the vehicles I’ve help build over the years, but this is something totally different,” Strong said. “I’m up for this experience to help the world---to help the situation we’ve got. A lot of friends ask me, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ and I say, ‘Yes. It’s the right thing to do.’”

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