Testing for a Cause

ventilator parts
Courtesy of FEV North America. Clockwise from upper left corner: timing regulator, main regulator, diaphragm amplifier, pneumatic check valve, flow restricting orifices

When Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. needed help testing critical parts for the ventilators it was manufacturing in rapid order due to COVID-19, it turned to Auburn Hills’ FEV North America Inc. The supplier typically provides the automaker with equipment that detects leaks in engines and transmissions.

Ford called FEV on April 15, and within five days the first parts were in transit to Ford. FEV was close to full capacity by April 27. “They had confidence (we) could do some things for them without a long time frame to get ready,” says Kevin Liscomb, project management supervisor of software and testing solutions at FEV.

At the supplier’s Redford Township facility, workers from all realms of the company — engineers, machinists, administrative assistants, and more — stepped up to test parts, which range in size from grains of rice to nearly 3 inches long. The testing procedures were critical, given air must travel almost entirely in one direction through the parts with the correct air pressure.

The supplier also processed parts, or modified them to fit Ford’s design. In total, the company prepares seven parts for the ventilators.

A converted engineering office serves as a test and processing space, while some engineers work from home. About 24 people are working on the project. “People are willing and feel good about helping a cause,” Liscomb says.