Design Engineering

FORD, 3M, GE, UAW partner to speed production of respirators, medical supplies

By DE Staff   

Additive Manufacturing Automotive Medical

Engineering teams leveraging 3D printing and off-the-shelf parts to fill shortages of emergency medical equipment.

Ford is leveraging its in-house 3D printing capability to produce disposable respirator masks and 100,000 medical face shields per week, the company says. (Photo credit: Ford Motor Company)

Ford announced its working with 3M and GE Healthcare to lend its manufacturing and engineering expertise to expand production of ventilators. Specifically, the car maker says employees are working with 3M to manufacture a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) designs at scale. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

To accelerate production, the Ford and 3M engineers are testing off-the-shelf parts, like fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants and portable tool battery packs to power the simplified respirators for up to eight hours. Ford is also looking at how it might produce these PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

In addition, the car maker says it plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

The company says the first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.


Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week, Ford says, and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs. We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”

The company says additional companies and individuals interested in contributing to the effort can submit their information at


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