Ford Motor is beginning to deliver powered air-purifying respirators to front-line health workers battling the coronavirus pandemic, the automaker said Wednesday.
Since late March, Ford has been working with 3M to create the personal protection equipment, using design guidance from 3M.
About 90 United Auto Workers union members have assembled more than 10,000 respirators at a Ford plant near Flat Rock, Michigan, according to the automaker. Ford said the facility has the ability to make 100,000 or more respirators, but it has declined to provide a time frame.
3M is selling and distributing the Ford-designed respirators through 3M-authorized distributors. Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle is the first customer to order and take delivery, the automaker said.
3M and Ford say they will donate any profits from the medical equipment sales to Covid-related nonprofit organizations.
The newly designed respirators include a hood and face shield to cover head and shoulders, while a high-efficiency filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to eight hours. The air-blower system, Ford says, is similar to the fan found in a Ford F-150 pickup's ventilated seats. It is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping to keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.
The respirator production is in addition to the company's other efforts to assist health-care workers, first responders and patients fighting Covid-19. The company has also produced 12 million face shields, and reusable gowns and ventilators with GE Healthcare.
Ford said Wednesday that suppliers are now producing 200,000 gowns a week, and more than 400,000 gowns have been shipped by Ford to medical workers around the country.
General Electric and Ford are expected to produce 50,000 ventilators for the U.S. government under the Defense Production Act for $336 million.