DETROIT—Ford Motor Co. plans to build respirators, ventilators and face shields in partnership with its UAW work force, manufacturing company 3M and GE Healthcare to aid medical workers as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to overwhelm their supply.
Known internally as "Project Apollo" and inspired by the quick-thinking ingenuity of the Apollo 13 space mission, executives on March 24 said Ford workers plan to use car parts and factory tools to help get some equipment out to doctors, nurses and first responders as early as this week.
"We were the arsenal of democracy during two world wars," Executive Chairman Bill Ford said on the "Today Show," announcing the initiatives. "We built iron lungs for polio patients. Whenever we're called on, we're there."
Ford is partnering with manufacturing company 3M to build air-purifying respirators on two fronts. It will aid 3M in boosting production of respirator designs 3M is already producing, while simultaneously building its own respirators using a makeshift design that includes fans from F-150 pickup seats, hoods from assembly plant paint shops, 3D-printed parts and portable tool battery packs that could allow the devices to run for up to eight hours.
"We're going into our parts bin to see what can be done," Ford said. "We're a very opportunistic company."
Respirators using Ford's makeshift design would be built at its advanced manufacturing center near Detroit in Redford, Mich.
Ford said it initially would be able to make up to 1,000 respirators per month, helping 3M boost production of them tenfold. Officials on a conference call said they're working to begin production in a matter of days or weeks.
In addition, Ford plans to produce up to 100,000 face shields per week, also in Michigan. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week, and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing's facilities in Plymouth, Mich.
Operators and assemblers assemble medical face shields. Ford Motor Company, in cooperation with the UAW, will assemble more than 100,000 critically needed plastic face shields per week at a Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks.
Ford also is partnering with GE Healthcare to expand production of a simplified version of GE's ventilator design. Ford said the ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett, speaking on "CBS This Morning," said the auto maker was targeting "hundreds of thousands" of ventilators and would ramp up production between now and June.