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As healthcare workers run out of protective gear, a digital industrial company has joined forces with an automotive and mobility giant, and an American corporation manufacturing a range of products, to address the challenges of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Ford announced that the company is working with 3M, General Electric (GE) and United Auto Workers to speed up the production of respirators for healthcare workers and ventilators for coronavirus patients.

Engineers and designers at Ford Motor Company are working with teams at 3M to apply science in creative ways and increase the manufacturing capacity of powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs. Ford is also looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

According to the statement, Ford expects the first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. About 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

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

In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand the 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.

“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 Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman in a statement. “We feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been locating 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.

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs.”

Mike Roman, 3M chairman of the board and chief executive officer, said they are ” exploring all opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford,” said

GE Healthcare President & CEO Kieran Murphy said they were encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to address the challenges of COVID-19. “We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs.”

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