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Ford US expands medical supply production to gowns

Ford Motor Co expands its medical supply operations to gowns using airbag material

14 Apr 2020

FORD Motor Company has continued the fight against COVID-19 with news that it is expanding its efforts to include the manufacture of reusable gowns and test collection kits while also upping production of face masks, ventilators and respirators.


With more than 3 million plastic face shields already produced at its Plymouth plant in Michigan, Ford announced yesterday that it was upping the ante and expanding its production of other protective equipment to be used by healthcare workers and other frontline staff, namely, reusable medical gowns manufactured from material used to make airbags.


Working in collaboration with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems and Beaumont Health, Ford expects production to reach 75,000 units by Sunday and increase to around 100,000 units per week as of Monday (April 20).


By July 4, Ford says some 1.3 million gowns will have been cut and sewn, all self-tested to federal standards and washable up to 50 times.


According to Beaumont Health Dearborn and Farmington Hills hospitals president David Claeys, more than 5000 gowns have already been delivered.


“The need to protect our medical teams is heightened – Ford’s gown production could not come at a better time during this crisis,” he said.


“Our frontline health care workers are working around the clock to treat COVID-19 patients and we need the necessary supplies to support them.”


Ford Global Core Engineering for Vehicle Manufacturing director Adrian Price added Ford was doing everything it could to “help keep the true heroes – medical personnel – and our communities safe in the fight against COVID-19”.


This is why the Detroit giant has loaned some of its manufacturing expertise to Thermo Fisher Scientific, a Kansas-based firm dedicated to producing collection kits for COVID-19 tests.


In a newly announced collaboration with engineers from Ford’s nearby assembly plant, the firm is looking at ways to upscale production by more than 300 per cent by April 20.


Other pre-existing projects like the production of respirators in conjunction with 3M have been going from strength to strength in the meantime with production of a new design of powered air-purifying respirator due to start today.


Designed specifically for those on the frontlines using leveraged components from the Ford parts bins, the new design took less than four weeks to develop and will be produced at Ford’s Vreeland facility in Michigan by up to 90 paid United Auto Workers (UAW) volunteers.


“By working collaboratively with 3M to quickly combine more than 100 years of Ford manufacturing and engineering expertise with personal protection equipment design and expertise, we’re getting much-needed technology into the hands of frontline medical workers to help when they need it most,” Ford Global Body Exterior and Interior Engineering director Marcy Fisher said.


More than 100,000 examples of the new respirators are tipped to be produced, with the new design featuring a hood and face shield to cover health care workers’ heads and shoulders while providing a supply of filtered air for up to eight hours.


Production has also started on a new batch of medical facemasks slated for internal use at Ford facilities around the world with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now encouraging people everywhere to use masks to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.


Elsewhere, work has begun at the Rawsonville Components Plant to convert some of the manufacturing faculties to produce third-party ventilators in collaboration with GE Healthcare.


Once again due to be built by paid UAW volunteers, Ford says the goal is to produce 50,000 Model A-E ventilators by July 4.


Across the Atlantic in the UK, preproduction measures have started on another ventilator project, this time using a design courtesy of British brand Penlon.


Ford will reportedly be “providing manufacturing engineering capability, project leadership, purchasing support and assembly” of the ventilators at its Dagenham engine plant in East London.


Meanwhile Ford Australia has begun testing of the first prototypes of its new face shields with examples having already been delivered to several Victorian hospitals to be field tested.

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