Ford to produce tens of thousands of ventilators in coronavirus fight

Grant Boone
March 31, 2020

The critical care devices will be built by United Autoworker union members that Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Working together with GE Healthcare, the ventilator's design will be provided by Airon Corporation, a small, privately held company specialising in high-tech pneumatic life support products.

Ford is providing the manufacturing capabilities to quickly scale production while GE Healthcare provides clinical expertise to license the design.

Ford Motor Co said on March 30 that it will produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a plant in MI in cooperation with General Electric's healthcare unit, and can then build 30,000 per month as needed to treat patients afflicted with the coronavirus.

Of note, the GE/Airon Model A-E ventilator is designed for quick setup and can be deployed in an emergency room setting.

Production at the plant is slated to begin in mid-April and Ford expects to build 1,500 ventilators by the end of the month.

Ford says it will employ a number of tactics to help keep the UAW workers at Rawsonville safe and mitigate the risk of infection, including enforcing social distancing, pre-screening workers before they enter the building, using barrier shields and plastic face shields that a Ford subsidiary is making in suburban Detroit. After that, the plant will produce up to 30,000 ventilators per month.

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"By producing this ventilator in MI, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help health care workers save lives, and that's our number one priority", said Jim Hackett, president and CEO of Ford.

About 500 Ford employees represented by the United Auto Workers are volunteering for the manufacturing effort.

The company's Model A-E ventilator is created to operate on air pressure without the need for electricity and can be set up quick to be deployed in an emergency room setting. "By producing this ventilator in MI, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help health care workers save lives, and that's our No. 1 priority".

Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett said March 24 that the carmaker and GE were targeting initial production in June.

Ventilators built by Ford, GM and others could be used in other parts of the country where the peak is expected to hit later.

Initially, Ford will send a team to work with Airon to boost production in Florida, and by April 20, will start production in Ypsilanti.

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