Ford is teaming with GE Healthcare to build ventilators at a plant near Detroit with the goal of building 50,000 units within the next 100 days and 30,000 per month as needed.
Ford will provide its manufacturing capabilities to quickly scale production, and GE Healthcare will provide its clinical expertise and will license the current ventilator design from Airon – a small, privately held company specializing in high-tech pneumatic life-support products.
Ventilators help the breathing of patients with COVID-19, which in its advanced stages impairs the respiratory system. The virus has claimed 3,000 lives in the U.S., and health officials have repeatedly warned of a nationwide shortage of ventilators as the pandemic spreads.
“The Ford and GE Healthcare teams, working creatively and tirelessly, have found a way to produce this vitally needed ventilator quickly and in meaningful numbers,” Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO, says in a news release. “By producing this ventilator in Michigan, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help health care workers save lives, and that’s our No. 1 priority.”
UAW President Rory Gamble says the union and its members are happy to help tackle the health-care crisis created by COVID-19.
“From the days of Rosie the Riveter, UAW members have stepped up during difficult times in this nation’s history for the good of us all,” Gamble says. “Today’s announcement by Ford that UAW volunteer paid employees will make respirators at Rawsonville (MI) is in that tradition.”
The UAW will work with Ford to make sure all Centers for Disease Control guidelines are followed and “abundance of caution” is exercised in the plant 30 miles (48 km) west of Detroit.
The Airon-licensed Model A-E ventilator is the second Ford-GE Healthcare ventilator collaboration. Last week, the companies announced a separate effort to produce a simplified ventilator design from GE Healthcare.
Ford also committed to making face shields for health care workers.
GE Healthcare brought the Airon design to Ford’s attention as part of the companies’ efforts to quickly scale production of ventilators to help clinicians treat COVID-19 patients.
The GE/Airon Model A-E ventilator uses a design that operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, addressing the needs of most patients. Its production can be quickly scaled to help meet growing demand in the U.S.
Ford initially will send a team to work with Airon to boost production in Florida, and by the week of April 20 will start production at its Rawsonville Components Plant. The automaker expects to produce 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 75,000 by July 31 (above, left) – helping the U.S. government meet its goal of producing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days.
The plant will produce the ventilators nearly around the clock, with 500 paid volunteer UAW-represented employees working on three shifts. At full production, Ford plans to make 7,200 Airon-licensed Model A-E ventilators per week.
GE Healthcare and Ford consulted with medical experts in determining the Airon-licensed
Model A-E ventilator is well-suited for COVID-19 patient care.
Cost was not disclosed but General Motors, which also has announced plans to build ventilators, tells Wards it expects to build them at cost to address the emergency created by the pandemic.
Peter Navarro, who was named Defense Production Act coordinator last week by President Donald Trump, says, “The Ford/GE Healthcare team is moving to speed urgently needed ventilators. We applaud Ford for its efforts to lend its manufacturing capabilities to help quickly scale the Airon-licensed Model A-E ventilator and arm clinicians in the fight against COVID-19.”