The automaker said it will make the ventilators at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The factory will be staffed by 500 United Auto Workers union members who have volunteered to work on the project, Ford said.
The Airon Model A-E ventilator that Ford will produce operates on air pressure alone and requires no electricity. Airon currently makes three of the ventilators per day at its factory in Melbourne, Florida. Ford’s plant will produce the ventilators around the clock with three shifts of workers, Ford said, and it will make 7,200 of the devices per week.
On Monday, Virgin Orbit announced it was also seeking to produce ventilators, making it one of the first aerospace companies to get involved. The California-based rocket startup said it has been working with UCI Health, a California research hospital, and the University of Texas at Austin, to create a prototype for a so-called “bridge” ventilator — a simple device that the company says can be quickly manufactured on a large scale.
Bridge ventilators could be used to treat some of the less critically ill Covid-19 patients in order to free up more sophisticated ventilators for those in dire need, Virgin Orbit said.
Kevin Zagorski, an engineer who typically works on rocket engine design, is heading up Virgin Orbit’s ventilator manufacturing efforts. He said that if the bridge ventilator design gets FDA approval for its design in the coming days, Virgin Orbit could begin producing thousands of the ventilators a week at its Los Angeles factory.