Ford, 3M, GE team with UAW to make ventilators and masks for coronavirus

From vehicles to ventilators and face masks: Ford and GE Healthcare want to cut the production time for making ventilators in half. Shown: UAW workers assemble new face shields. (Ford)

Ford, 3M, GE Healthcare and United Auto Workers have joined forces to boost production of respirators, ventilators and other gear in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the effort, Ford announced Tuesday it plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and will use 3D printing to make personal protective equipment components.

Ford announced it is also working with 3M to increase manufacturing of powered air-purifying respirator designs. It is a new respirator that could be produced by UAW workers in a Ford facility in Michigan. Ford recently reduced some vehicle production.

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Also, Ford said it is working with GE Healthcare to expand production of GE’s existing ventilator design based on a request for help from the U.S. government. Ford CEO James Hackett said in a CNN interview on Tuesday that the companies could be producing “hundreds of thousands” of ventilators by early May. That is partly possible because the normal production time of 27 hours will be cut in half.

He described the process as making a “puzzle” where different partners contribute technologies.

Hackett also said that medical personnel have said their biggest need is protective gear such as masks and that the groups are working to create a mask similar to welder’s mask with the idea of making hundreds of thousands, also under a faster process. 

Hackett said Ford will use its own workers to help the logistics process of getting the gear to where it is needed. “There will be no barrier to making things get to where they are needed,” he said on CNN.

In its statement, Ford said testing is starting of a transparent full-face shield for first responders that can be paired with N95 respirators. About 75,000 will be finished this week, and 100,000 will be produced each week at a Plymouth, Michigan facility.

RELATED: UPDATE: Could electronics makers produce COVID-19 treatment supplies and gear?

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