3M Teams up with Ford to Build Air-Purifying Respirators

3M Teams up with Ford to Build Air-Purifying Respirators

The automaker is lending 3M fans to use in a next-generation face mask that filters air for wearers.

Maplewood-based manufacturer 3M is ramping up production of a specialized face mask with an assist from Ford Motor Co.

On Tuesday, Ford announced that it’s providing some “off-the-shelf” parts to 3M to help produce powered air-purifying respirators, or PAPRs. Unlike 3M’s standard N95 respirators, PAPRs feature a hood and battery-powered blower to circulate filtered air for medical workers.

In a news release, 3M officials said the next-generation respirators are designed to provide a more comfortable experience for workers who need to wear medical equipment for a long period of time.

Ford, meanwhile, said its lending parts like fans used for seats in F150 vehicles. The automaker also said it’s considering using a Michigan manufacturing plant to help producing PAPRs.

“We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most,” said Mike Roman, 3M’s chairman and CEO, in the release. “It’s crucial that we mobilize all resources to protect lives and defeat this disease.”

3M didn’t say how many PAPRs it aims to produce monthly. When reached for comment, a company spokesman said the goal is to boost production “tenfold.” The mask already existed before the pandemic hit, he noted.

The manufacturer has said it’s aiming to double its production of N95 masks. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 100 million masks each month. In the U.S., 3M plans to produce 35 million respirators a month.