Ford has announced that it is working with 3M and General Motors to manufacture the types of fans and masks that are currently in short supply as the world battles the new coronavirus pandemic. The company teams up with other automakers like Tesla and General Motors to help the medical community, after idling its auto plants due to the effects the pandemic is having on both consumer demand and the global supply chain.
Everything comes at a crucial moment. As more people become infected with the new coronavirus, there is an increased need for protective equipment such as masks to keep healthcare workers safe and ventilators to treat people with the worst symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Many places are still scarce of both. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that help from the private sector will not be enough, as he once again asked the federal government to intervene.
Ford says it is helping to increase 3M’s total production of “powered air purifying respirator” (PAPR) masks, and the two companies are also proposing a new design based on standard parts “to go as fast as possible”. “Ford says the new design could take advantage of its F-150 van’s cooled seat fans, as well as HEPA air filters and portable power tool battery packs that 3M already makes. The automaker says it still It is trying to figure out how and where to build these “next-generation PAPRs.” But Ford believes it could help 3M increase production of the masks “tenfold.”
In addition to that, Ford is working with GE’s health care division to discover how to help the company make a “simplified version” of its fans. Ford says these fans “could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location,” but did not elaborate. Fans are already in short supply and will continue to be as the virus spreads and more people develop acute respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.
Ford is also making and testing new face shields to help medical professionals mitigate the risk of becoming infected with the new coronavirus, which can be transmitted by small drops in a person’s cough or sneeze.
Many of the most recognized companies in the United States have joined the effort to help strengthen the country’s increasingly stressed health care system. Automakers are leading the charge in some way by getting involved in supplying supplies and evaluating ways to speed up production of much-needed equipment such as masks and fans. But medical equipment manufacturing operations are likely to take much longer than people like President Trump have made it seem, regardless of whether he invokes the Defense Production Act.
General Motors announced Friday that it was partnering with fan maker Ventec Life Systems and offering the company help with manufacturing, logistics and purchasing issues to increase production.
Tesla was able to buy what CEO Elon Musk said were surplus fans from China. The company delivered more than 1,000 of them to the state of California on Monday. Musk and Tesla also shipped some 50,000 N95 surgical masks made by 3M to the University of Washington Medical Center.
Other companies like Apple and Facebook are also donating hundreds of thousands of masks to healthcare workers across the country.