It might not be exactly the news some Ford fans were hoping for, but the Blue Oval has restarted a small manufacturing operation in Australia, not to resurrect the Falcon or Territory, but in support of health professionals and the fight against COVID-19.
As the world struggles to meet the demand for essential personal protective equipment, Ford has allocated resources at its Broadmeadows facility in Melbourne’s north to manufacture up to 100,000 face shields.
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The vital protective gear will be donated to front-line doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who continue to test and treat patients with the virus, forming a crucial part of the fight to control and eradicate the disease.
Over the past weeks, Ford has been testing and developing face-shielding prototypes at five Victorian hospitals and the final design is now in production at its product development facilities. The first examples of a Ford-built face shield are already in action around the state.
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While the majority of Ford’s production team is involved with the assembly and distribution of the shields, the company has also been working with suppliers to help produce the materials and components required for their manufacture.
With its contribution to the cause, Ford joins an army of automotive brands and their staff that have turned their skills and resources to help with the coronavirus crisis.
Also on Australian turf, Supercar racing teams Erebus Motorsport and Triple Eight have already enlisted their support producing incubator chambers, ventilators and face masks.
Overseas, Ferrari has been 3D printing ventilator components, in Japan, Nissan has been manufacturing face shields similar to Ford’s Australian devices, while Jaguar Land Rover has been 3D printing their version of the potentially life-saving visors in the UK.
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According to the company, skills and expertise retained in the company from a local car production era has enabled the company to rapidly develop the medical equipment and scale up to meet extraordinary demand.
“We said from the beginning of COVID-19 that any way we could help, we would help,” said the president and CEO of Ford Australia and New Zealand, Kay Hart.
“Producing face shields is certainly something new for us, but our innovation team and engineers were able to test a number of different designs in hospitals and with their input we have been able to get the face shield right for the people who will be wearing them.
“With testing of the prototype shield now complete, we’re quickly ramping up production and working to dispatch the shields to medical workers and other facilities that need them.
But while the team is busy producing large numbers of the devices, Hart explained that it was business as usual for the locally-based design and development teams.
“It’s great that our team has been able to quickly pivot to put their skills towards producing the face shield while also continuing their global work designing and engineering pick-up trucks and SUVs.”