Ford, in collaboration with GE Healthcare, said it would begin producing in Michigan a third party ventilator with the goal of producing 50,000 of the vitally needed units within 100 days and up to 30,000 a month thereafter as needed.
Ford would provide its manufacturing capabilities to quickly scale production and GE Healthcare would provide its clinical expertise and license the current ventilator design from Airon Corporation, a small, privately held company specialising in high-tech pneumatic life support products.
GE Healthcare brought the Airon design to Ford's attention as part of the companies' efforts to scale production of ventilators quickly 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 COVID-19 patients. Its production can be quickly scaled to help meet growing demand in the US.
"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," said Jim Hackett, Ford's president and CEO. "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."
According to White House Defense Production Act Coordinator Peter Navarro, "the Ford/GE Healthcare team is moving in 'Trump time' to speed urgently needed ventilators to the front lines of the Trump Administration's full-scale war against the coronavirus. Just as Ford in the last century moved its manufacturing might seamlessly from auto to tank production during World War II, the Ford team is working with GE Healthcare to use its awesome engineering and manufacturing capabilities to voluntarily help this nation solve one of its most pressing problems. We salute that effort and look forward to the first ventilators rolling off the Michigan assembly line in record time – and we'll be there to salute that milestone."
Ford will initially send a team to work with Airon to boost production in Florida and, by the week of 20 April, will start production at the automaker's Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, quickly ramping up to reach full production to help meet surging demand.
Ford expects to produce 1,500 by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by 4 July – helping the US government meet its goal of producing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days.
Rawsonville will produce the ventilators nearly around the clock with 500 paid volunteer UAW represented employees working on three shifts.
Airon currently produces three of the ventilators per day in Melbourne, Fla. At full production, Ford plans to make 7,200 Airon-licensed Model A-E ventilators per week.
Last week, Ford and GE Healthcare announced a separate effort to produce a simplified ventilator design from GE Healthcare. The combined ventilator supply will help address the increasing surge demand for ventilators around the US.