Ford announced that production of a new type of pressurized respirator face mask for healthcare workers will begin Tuesday. The mask, called a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator, or PAPR, is being developed in partnership with 3M.
A PAPR is a clear mask that fits over the entire face. Air is drawn in through a tube connected to a pump that filters contaminants from the air.
In late March, Ford (F) and 3M (MMM) announced they were working on a new mask using parts from both companies’ products. For example, the new mask uses a type of fan usually used in ventilated car seats.
About 90 paid volunteers, members of the United Auto Workers union, will assemble the masks at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan. The factory will be able to make 100,000 or more masks, according to Ford. The company did not disclose when all of those masks would be available, however.
Ford said it is also working with automotive airbag supplier, Joyson Safety Systems, to produce reusable gowns for healthcare workers. The gowns will be made from material usually used to make airbags.
Ford expects to make 75,000 gowns a week by Sunday and scale up to 100,000 gowns for the week of April 19 and beyond.
Workers in a clean room at a Ford transmission plant have also been making fabric face masks to protect against the virus. For the time being the masks are being used by Ford employees around the world, but the company is working to get the masks certified for medical use.
Ford has also been working with Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), a scientific and medical supply company, to help it increase its production of sampling kits for Covid-19 testing.
The automaker had previously announced that it is making plastic face shields for medical workers and that it is working with GE Healthcare to produce a simplified ventilator for hospital patients at one of its Michigan factories.