Ford is working with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare to manufacture urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for first responders and health care workers, the American automaker has said. The Blue Oval is leveraging its in-house 3D printing capability for the production of personal protective equipment, and plans to build more than 100,000 face shields a week.

The Blue Oval is collaborating with 3M for the increase in manufacturing capacity of 3M’s powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) designs, and are working together for a new design that uses parts from both companies to meet the sharply increased demand to supply first responders and healthcare workers, the automaker said, with the respirators likely assembled in a Ford facility by UAW staff.

“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 executive chairman Bill Ford.

“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,” said Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett.

For patients, Ford and GE Healthcare are collaborating to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design for supporting patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing from having contracted Covid-19. These ventilators can be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE Healthcare facility, the automaker said.

Meanwhile, Ford’s design team is also working at speed to creating and test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders, said Ford. The face shield offers full coverage for the face and eyes from accident contact with liquids, and when paired with N95 respirators, can be more effective in limiting exposure to coronavirus compared to using N95 respirators alone.

The first 1,000 face shields are set for testing this week, with 75,000 units expected to be completed this week and more than 100,000 units are to be produced weekly at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Michigan, Ford said, while the automaker is also evaluating anther effort with the UK government – separate from GE Healthcare – for the production of additional ventilators.

Over in China, Ford joint venture partner Jiangling Motors has donated 10 specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China, which were originally sent by the company to China earlier this year from initial efforts in fighting the outbreak.

A team has also been put together by Ford to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators, with 40,000 surgical masks committed for sending to Henry Ford Health Systems while additional supplies are being located.

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