Covid-19: Ford, GM, Tesla, join the virus fight to provide ventilators, shields and PPEs

In a scene reminiscent of what happened in China as it faced the brunt of Covid-19 and as the virus spreads from the East to the West at a faster trajectory, US automotive makers are rallying to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers.

Covid-19: Ford, GM, Tesla, join the virus fight to provide ventilators, shields and PPEs

US Ford Motor Company, joining forces with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare, is lending its manufacturing and engineering expertise to assemble more than 100,000 face shields/week and leveraging its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surge demand for first responders and health care workers. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

Ford and 3M are also utilising 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.

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.

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

Meanwhile, Ford’s US design team is testing transparent full-face shields for medical workers 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 this week and more than 100,000 face shields/week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.

Furthermore, it is evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the UK government to produce additional ventilators.

In China, Ford China joint venture partner Jiangling Motors also has donated ten specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat coronavirus.

Ford has also kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. It has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.

Additional companies and individuals who are interested in contributing to this effort can submit their information here at www.fordnewideas.com.

GM, Tesla chip in

Covid-19: Ford, GM, Tesla, join the virus fight to provide ventilators, shields and PPEs

Meanwhile, other automotive makers like General Motors (GM) and Tesla have also joined the virus fight. GM is working with Ventec Life Systems to help increase production of respiratory care products such as ventilators.

The partnership is part of StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated effort of private companies to respond to Covid-19.

Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more ventilators. The companies did not provide further details such as when production might be able to ramp up or how many ventilators would be produced.

Elsewhere, Tesla’s Chief Executive Elon Musk has offered 1,255 ventilators for free.

Covid-19: Ford, GM, Tesla, join the virus fight to provide ventilators, shields and PPEs

"China had an oversupply, so we bought 1,255 FDA-approved ResMed, Philips & Medtronic ventilators and airshipped them to LA. If you want a free ventilator installed, please let us know!" Musk recently tweeted, offering praise to Tesla's China team as well as Chinese and US customs officials.

Tesla has also contributed 50,000 N95 masks to Seattle. Musk has not said anything about making ventilators at Tesla or SpaceX, the rocket company Musk also leads, but has been reported as suggesting a timeline of eight to 10 weeks before the plants could produce ventilators.


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