Auburn Hills-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced it is manufacturing and donating more than 1 million face masks per month in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Production capacity is being installed this week, and the company will start manufacturing in the coming weeks with initial distribution in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The face masks are to be donated to police, EMTs, firefighters, and workers in hospitals and clinics.
“Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important,” says Mike Manley, CEO of FCA. “In addition to the support we are giving to increase the production of ventilators, we canvassed our contacts across the health care industry, and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks. We’ve marshalled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic.”
FCA will work through national, regional, and city authorities to ensure face masks are directed to those most in need.
FCA is also working with Italy’s Siare Engineering to help make ventilators.
Dearborn’s Ford is partnering with 3M in Minnesota and GE Healthcare in Chicago to expand production of medical equipment including air-purifying respirators, ventilators, and face shields. The company plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3-D printing capability to produce components for personal protective equipment.
“This is such a critical time for America and the world,” says Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford. “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. At Ford, 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.”
Ford is working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of 3M’s powered air-purifying respirator designs and is working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies. The new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.
To work as quickly as possible, the teams are using off-the-shelf parts such as fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants, and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours. Ford may produce the powered air-purifying respirators in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities.
Ford and GE Healthcare are looking to produce a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. They could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location. Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.
Ford’s U.S. design teams are also creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. They block the face from accidental contact with liquids and, when paired with respirators, can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than with respirators alone.
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 are expected to be finished this week, and more than 100,000 per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s Plymouth facilities.
Ford is leveraging its advanced manufacturing center in Redford Township and in-house 3-D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.
The company is also evaluating a separate effort with the U.K. government to produce additional ventilators.
In China, Ford of China 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 that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat the virus.
Ford has also kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure surgical and N95 respirators. So far, the company has committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.