Automakers Drive into Making a Difference

Ford Motor Co. is targeting production of 100 million medical-grade masks through 2021, General Motors has received N95 certification under NIOSH, and a partnership between Honda and GM is producing hand sanitizer.

AWS Publications | February 9, 2021 | Tech and Industries
Welding Digest ►  Automakers Drive into Making a Difference

Ford Motor Co. is targeting production of 100 million medical-grade masks through 2021, General Motors has received N95 certification under NIOSH, and a partnership between Honda and GM is producing hand sanitizer.

 

100 million masks

 

Following completion of its 50,000th ventilator to help clinicians treat COVID-19 patients, Ford is pivoting to target production of 100 million masks through 2021 for communities across the United States with limited access to personal protective equipment (Figure 1).

The company, currently manufacturing 2.5 million medical-grade masks a week for its employees and at-risk communities, grew the number of mask-making machines in October to increase production and deliver on its goal. The automaker is working with the Ford Motor Co. Fund to identify donation recipients across the United States through a network of nonprofit and state and local partners. It’s focusing on military veterans, schools, food banks and African American communities, among others.

“As the pandemic continues, so does the spirit, grit and dedication of our Ford team and UAW [United Auto Workers] partners to step up and contribute to help our country,” said Jim Hackett, former Ford president and CEO.

Also, a short documentary by award-winning director Peter Berg titled “On the Line” is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYHgV2u1T2Y. It focuses on Ford’s Project Apollo, the internal code name for the company’s effort to design and manufacture personal protective equipment, including powered air-purifying respirators, face shields, medical gowns for healthcare workers and first responders and ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

FordFigure 1: Charles Buchanan, a Ford Motor Co. employee, tests the 50,000th ventilator produced at Ford’s Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti, Mich. (Credit: Ford.).

 

N95 certification

 

GM has received N95 certification for the filtering facepiece respirators made at its Warren, Mich., facility (Figure 2).

In response to the urgent need to increase the inventory of NIOSH-approved respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff at NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory has worked tirelessly to quickly evaluate domestic respirator applications for approval. These efforts are helping to increase the supply of available certified filtering facepiece respirators while ensuring new respirators meet the protective standards workers need and expect from NIOSH-approved respirators.

Achieving an N95 rating required an entirely new manufacturing process. At station 1, four layers of fabric are sandwiched together, tack welded in place and cut into rectangular “blanks”; at station 2, blanks are loaded into a template that welds the outer perimeter as well as the pocket for the wire nose piece; at station 3, the wire nose piece is inserted, the blank is folded horizontally and a sonic weld in the shape of a hockey stick is installed from the nose to the chin; and at station 4, the excess material is trimmed.

To expedite the launch of the N95 line, GM repurposed sonic welding units from the Brownstown Battery Assembly plant. For this line, the equipment was updated with templates to create the weld patterns needed for respirators.

GM will donate some of the N95 respirators to frontline workers. To date, the Warren facility has delivered more than 4 million face masks and 230,000 face shields to frontline workers.

GMFigure 2: GM has received N95 certification for the filtering facepiece respirators made at its Warren, Mich., facility. (Photo by John F. Martin for GM.).

 

12,000 gal of hand sanitizer

 

In addition, as part of an industry-wide effort to help alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Honda and GM are producing nearly 12,000 gal of hand sanitizer through their Fuel Cell System Manufacturing (FCSM) partnership. It will be used by both companies at their facilities throughout the region.

The hand sanitizer is being made at the Brownstown, Mich., facility where the FCSM team has been working on the development of fuel-cell stacks for the next generation of hydrogen-powered cars. Using an apparatus designed to manufacture the electrodes used in the fuel cells, the team developed a process to repurpose the equipment to produce a hand sanitizer.

Honda will also donate nearly 75% of its allocation of the hand sanitizer, packaging the product in 9-oz bottles for healthcare facilities.