Ford partnering with GE Healthcare, 3M on coronavirus response

Operators and assemblers assemble medical face shields. Ford Motor Company, in cooperation with the UAW, will assemble more than 100,000 critically needed plastic face shields per week at a Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks.

Last updated on March 25th, 2020 at 02:17 pm

Ford will partner with GE Healthcare on the production of ventilators and 3M to make air-purifying respirators, the companies announced Tuesday.

The two partnerships bring together three iconic American brands as the country continues to ramp up its fight against the coronavirus.

“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. 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.”

The partnership with GE Healthcare will focus on expanding production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing because of COVID-19. Ford will be providing technical and production expertise and the system would be built to address the urgent needs during the pandemic.

The ventilators could be produced at a Ford facility in addition to a GE location. GE produces ventilators at its plant in Madison and is already in the process of ramping up production there.

“We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to help address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said GE Healthcare president and CEO Kieran Murphy. “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 support clinicians as they meet patient needs.”

Ford is working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity for powered air-purifying respirator designs. The two companies are working to design a respirator that could leverage parts from both companies to meet the surge in demand from first responders and health care workers.

The design teams are turning to existing parts like fans from F-150 cooled seats, 3M HEPA air filters and portable tool battery packs. Ford is exploring the possibility of producing the respirators at one of its Michigan facilities, potentially providing a 10-fold boost to 3M’s production

“We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get health care supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford,” said Mike Roman, 3M chairman of the board and chief executive officer. “It’s crucial that we mobilize all resources to protect lives and defeat this disease, and I’m incredibly grateful to Ford and their employees for this partnership.”

Ford is also developing a line of face shields and using its 3D printing capabilities to produce protective equipment components.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.