Updated Mar 30, 2020 - Health

Ford, GE aim to make 50,000 ventilators in 100 days

Ford ventilator

A Model A-E ventilator, left, and a simple test lung. The ventilator uses a design that operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, addressing the needs of most COVID-19 patients. Photo: Ford

Ford and GE Healthcare announced plans to build a simplified ventilator design licensed from a Florida medical technology company, with the goal of producing 50,000 machines by early July, and up to 30,000 a month thereafter, to fight the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The companies are moving in "Trump time" to meet demand for urgently needed ventilators, says White House Defense Production Act Coordinator Peter Navarro. But with deaths expected to peak in two weeks, the machines won't arrive in large numbers in time to help the hardest-hit cities.

  • Ford expects to produce 1,500 by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4 — helping the U.S. government meet its goal of producing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days.

The latest: Federal officials formally announced the new contract for ventilator production under the Defense Production Act on Thursday, at a total price of $336 million for 50,000 ventilators to be produced by July 13.

Details: GE Healthcare is licensing the ventilator design from Airon Corp. — a small, privately held company specializing in high-tech pneumatic life support products.

  • The GE/Airon Model A-E ventilator uses a design that operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, and the companies said its production can be quickly scaled to help meet growing demand in the U.S.

Ford will start by helping Airon boost production in Florida. By the week of April 20, the automaker will start production at a components plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., near Detroit, which the CDC now says is a hot spot for infections

  • The plant will run nearly around the clock, with 500 paid volunteer UAW-represented employees working on three shifts.
  • Today, Airon produces three ventilators per day in Melbourne, Fla.
  • At full production, Ford plans to make 7,200 of the licensed version per week.
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