Newly designed powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), developed by Ford in close collaboration with 3M, are on the way to health care workers fighting COVID-19.
Since late March, the companies have been working rapidly to design and deliver urgently needed PAPRs, drawing on 3M’s expertise in personal safety equipment, technology and regulatory requirements. Through the collaboration, 3M and Ford brought the new PAPR from idea to product in 40 days. Now, more than 10,000 of the newly designed PAPRs are ready to be shipped from Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan.
“We are dedicated to helping support and protect the health care workers fighting COVID-19,” said Bernard Cicut, vice president, 3M Personal Safety Division. “We thank Ford for partnering with us to quickly develop and deliver more of these critical health care supplies to the heroes working on the frontlines of this unprecedented health crisis.”
3M is a leading provider of personal protective equipment, including powered air-purifying respirators. Demand for 3M PAPRs is exceeding supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through partnerships with companies like Ford and Cummins, 3M plans to increase capacity of its own PAPRs by ten-fold within the next several months.
“Ford could not stand by while health care workers in this country placed their lives on the line to help others without even having proper protection,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “That’s why we kicked off an all-out sprint to protect those who are so selflessly helping patients afflicted with this terrible virus.”
The Ford Limited-Use Public Health Emergency PAPR includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to eight hours on a single battery charge. The air blower system—built around fan components found in Ford F-150’s ventilated seats—is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.
The 3M and Ford development team worked closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory. NIOSH provided timely guidance to encourage the development of PAPRs to help respond to the COVID-19 emergency. NIOSH has issued temporary approval under its limited-use protocol to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
3M will sell and distribute the newly designed Ford Limited-Use Public Health Emergency PAPR through select 3M-authorized U.S. distributors to quickly and efficiently deploy these technologies to health care workers. The company will also provide technical support for health care workers using the new PAPRs. These 3M-authorized distributors moved exceptionally fast to make the PAPRs available for order within days.
3M and Ford will donate any profits they earn from the sale of the PAPR to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.
Since the initial outbreak, 3M has doubled its global output of filtering facepiece respirators, such as N95s, to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year, or nearly 100 million per month. In the United States, 3M is producing 35 million N95 respirators per month, with more than 90 percent going to health care workers. 3M has already put into motion investments and actions that will enable it to double its N95 and other filtering facepiece respirator capacity once again to two billion globally within the next 12 months.