We can’t but always talk about the coronavirus any day as it seems to be part of our daily lives as it had wrecked a big havoc on the world in general and while the battle against the deadly disease is still very on, Ford, the company that makes cars also wants to help by making devices that will help healthcare workers at the frontline to keep safe while saving others’ lives.
The American automaker giant is now making en-masse a powered air-purifying respirator of its own design. This device is meant to protect a person from breathing in contaminants as the initial idea is now being made as its at the prototype stage. The design of the gear is based on the existing 3M design and the production is being made as fast as possible by the engineers from the company.
The device is meant to help doctors and healthcare workers at the frontline to be able to fight easily the pandemic as car makers are now working really hard by joining the battle which had hit the transportation industry the most due to the shelter-in-place order given by the federal government of many countries affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The first beneficiary of this innovation is the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington which had taken its delivery of the new PAPRs. “They ordered one pallet of them, 24 [in total],” Marcy Fisher, Ford’s director of global body exterior and interior engineering, told Roadshow on Tuesday. Fisher is heavily involved in the development of the respirators. Ford’s PAPR production began in the middle of April at a facility near Flat Rock, Michigan. The automaker has the capacity to build 100,000 or more of these devices. But if you wonder what the PAPR is or how it works, here is a further understanding of the gear.
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Explaining the PAPR
The PAPR is a suit which would make you appear like an Astronaut except it’s not really a spacesuit which shields an astronaut from vacuum, extreme temperatures or dangerous radiation so in turn, the new Ford’s PAPR protects you from dangerous pathogens like the Coronavirus.
When worn, the PAPR delivers a filtered air right under positive pressure in order to protect you from outward contaminants. Also, this suit is well designed to prevent the further spread of the infectious disease. There isn’t much difference from respirators as say those used by Welders protects them from powerful rays of light and harmful fumes in the case of painters.
“The air pressure comes from up over the top of the hood and down,” Fisher explained. This prevents any outside contaminants from getting in. “[It] keeps that filtered air in front to the health care worker at all times.”
The Ford’s PAPR has a yellow color design with hoods and of course a face shield. When you wear this, it fits really tightened to your head and fits firmly to the face with an elastic band. Then it features a hose that connects to the back of the hood and runs to the main body of the respirator which uses battery to function. It then has a blower fan and an HEPA filter which keeps viruses away from entering into your nose. In a typical hospital setting, Fisher said Ford is estimating the filter will last for years.
As for the battery compartment, it supports the normal off-the-shelf battery you can get on any e-store or at the shopping mall and the lower fan motor looks similar to those you’ll find on the Ford F-150 truck except Ford makes them all.
According to Ford engineers, they wanted to use existing filter design but 3M couldn’t build enough of them so Fisher narrated how the company had to take the job to Mann+Hummel which is one of Ford’s supply partners in Germany and was able to create a filter specifically for the PAPR.
“And that’s what really helped us move fast,” Fisher said, knowing how to leverage Ford’s existing supply base that it would normally use to build cars. The PAPR’s tube, for instance, is provided by a company called TI Fluids, which normally makes fuel tanks, among other things. Seat suppliers are sewing the hoods. Really, it’s a team effort.
As simple as the device is designed to be, that comes with its support for a simple off-the-shelf battery which can be easily replaced when needed to be and Fisher even said one can be gotten at a local Home Depot. While the blower fan is also an off the shelf item according to her which is similar to those found on the F-150 pickup truck.
Both Ford and 3M had partnered and worked together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) during the development in order to create a really functional prototype and the PAPR is approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for limited use to help during the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
The official name of Ford’s PAPR is the Limited Use Public Health Emergency Powered Air-Purifying Respirator. Internally, employees refer to it as the “Scrappy PAPR” since it was made as quickly as possible and out of an unusual collection of components. “That’s the idea,” Fisher said. “It needs to be scrappy.”
How does it feel to wear the PAPR?
It’s said to be pretty simple to wear and probably wouldn’t need a massive textbook manual. Although first attempt might seem tricky as you will be required to put on the hood and adjust the gear to properly fit you but once tweaked out and well placed in the correct places, you’re set to go.
The screen on the hood gives you maximum view as possible and so there is nothing called obstruction of views and so you can pretty much just walk around with it and function just as you would on a normal. But then the problem comes when you are exhausting the little oxygen within the suite as its made of plastic so no air is coming in from anywhere. But then that’s the job of the button on the bottom of the PAPR which turns on the blower fan on and its quite silent and sends in a really large amount of air into the hood. The air being sent in is well filtered out so no virus is coming any close into the PAPR by any means.
While they can be cleaned and disinfected, the hoods are consumable items, Fisher said. “The intention is they are disposed of,” though each health care organization has its own procedures for that. A side of the PAPR does feel bulky when worn as engineers from the company didn’t have enough time to really fine-tune the design. It weighs about five pounds and so it’s not some heavy suite.
Whats is more
The company had made the PAPR available and can be ordered right now. They come with one hood and a standard-capacity battery as well as a high-powered battery. “Our list price is US$715 each” according to Fisher which is a wholesales price. Revenues made on the PAPR beyond breaking even will be donated to charity in order to further fight off the COVID-19 pandemic. These respirators will be sold by 3M-authorized distributors for greater speed and efficiency, though they can also be ordered from Ford.
Ford isn’t just making the PAPR, the company is also doing -other things to further help fight against the Coronavirus pandemic which includes manufacturing of personal protective equipment as well as making over 12 million face shields.
The Blue Oval is making isolation gowns from airbag material, and producing 200,000 of them per week. It’s even working with GE Healthcare to build ventilators. No, Ford is not the only automaker fighting this pandemic, but it’s certainly doing its part. “The team is very proud and also very humble to be a part of this sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Fisher said. “That’s the driving motivation.”