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Ford worker assembles transparent face shield. Photo: Ford Motor

Ford Motor is bootstrapping ideas with GE Healthcare and 3M to help them dramatically increase their production of much-need medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Ford and other automakers specialize in cranking out cars in high volume, using global supply chains. That mass production expertise is critical as medical technology companies try to meet surging demand during the crisis.

  • "I feel like this is the fabric of who we are. All three companies. We see the need, we just want to jump in and find a way to help," said Jim Baumbick, Ford vice president for Enterprise Product Line Management.

Details: Ford is working on multiple fronts to help the companies increase production of their own products, and innovating some of its own solutions.

  • Ford is working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of its powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR), a waist-mounted breathing machine with a helmet that healthcare workers use.
  • Teams are also working jointly to develop a new PAPR design using parts like fans borrowed from the Ford F-150's cooled seats, 3M HEPA air filters and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours.
  • This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers, the automaker said.
  • The goal is to help 3M boost production tenfold.

Ford is also working with GE Healthcare to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare's existing ventilator for sick patients.

  • These ventilators could potentially be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location. 

Separately, Ford is designing and testing transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders.

  • The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit-area hospitals.
  • Ford expects to manufacture about 75,000 of these shields by the end of this week and then produce more than 100,000 face shields per week.
  • It is also trying to 3D-print disposable respirators for healthcare workers and first responders but will need regulatory approval.
  • 3D printing does not allow for large-scale production, however. Ford said it would make about 1,000 per month but will aim to increase production as fast as possible.

What they're saying: "Ford has really unleashed the power of their engineering at our plants," said Mike Kesti, global technical director, 3M Personal Safety Division.

The bottom line: "Time really here is the enemy," Baumbick said.

Go deeper

Andrew Cuomo refuses to resign: "I never touched anyone inappropriately"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he will not resign from his post, despite an independent investigation finding that he sexually harassed multiple women in violation of federal and state law.

Why it matters: Cuomo had previously urged those calling for his resignation — including nearly every prominent New York Democrat — to wait for the results of the investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The findings were damning, but Cuomo said he is not going anywhere.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
3 hours ago - Science

Boeing is getting its do-over

Boeing's Starliner awaits its launch atop an Atlas V rocket. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Boeing is set to launch a redo of an uncrewed test of its Starliner spacecraft — designed to one day carry astronauts — to the International Space Station this week.

Why it matters: This is a high-stakes test for Boeing, which failed to get its Starliner to the station during its first uncrewed test flight in December 2019.

4 hours ago - Health

New York City to require vaccination proof for indoor activities

New York City will require proof of vaccination to participate in indoor activities, including visiting gyms and restaurants, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The mandate is the first of its kind for a major U.S. city, according to de Blasio. France and Italy announced similar requirements last month.