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Ford's Prototype Medical Respirator Uses F-150 Cooled-Seat Fan

Ford, 3M, GE, and the UAW are working together—quickly—to build protective gear for medical professionals.

The Ford Motor Company is working with 3M, General Electric (GE), and the United Auto Workers to develop ventilators and respirators for medical professionals fighting the coronavirus. The Blue Oval announced its push into emergency medical supply territory in a press release, stating that it's collaborating "with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs," as well as assisting in developing "a new [PAPR] design leveraging parts from both companies. "

Ford's North American product communications manager, Mike Levine, tweeted out a sketch of a potential PAPR design that uses off-the-shelf parts, including the ventilated seat fan from an F-150, a battery from a power tool, and the protective hoods worn by Ford's paint shop specialists. Ford noted in its release that such a respirator "could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers. "

Likewise, Ford and GE Healthcare are collaborating on "a simplified version of GE Healthcare's existing ventilator design" that "could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location." Alas, the Blue Oval noted that "[w]ork on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials. "

As such, it seems Ford and GE Healthcare are waiting for President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to direct the companies to begin production of life-saving ventilators. As of this writing, President Trump is only using the DPA for the production of 60,000 coronavirus test kits and has yet to invoke the aspects of the law that compels private industries to manufacture emergency goods.

That said, it's possible that President Trump will rely on the DPA to force private industry to produce more ventilators as the coronavirus pandemic continues to intensify and the country's current shortage of ventilators eventually results in additional disease-related deaths.

While Ford's work with 3M and GE remains in the development stage, the Blue Oval is actively creating protective face shields for medical professionals, the first 1,000 of which go out for testing this week. By the end of the week, Ford expects to produce 75,000 face shields, with production eventually ramping up to more than 100,000 units per week.

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