General Motors has ramped up its PPE production efforts to help healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The automaker was already making facemasks and ventilators to help address supply shortages at American hospitals, but it has now expanded into making latex-free face shields and protective medical gowns. Additionally, it is now also making aerosol boxes – a plastic cube that surrounds a patient’s head when they are intubated, protecting medical workers from exposure if the patient coughs or sneezes.
GM said these projects were led by employee volunteers that were looking to apply their automotive-production skills to help healthcare workers. The employees delivered handmade test samples to local hospitals for feedback before perfecting the designs and putting them into production.
“It’s amazing how much our employees have accomplished in such a short time,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “People from all corners of the company have really stepped up to help, and to lend their talents, time and energy to battle coronavirus.”
GM also said it is currently coordinating with the state of Michigan to identify hospitals that are in need of additional PPE. Some protective gowns have already been delivered to Henry Ford Health System hospitals in the state, while some aerosol boxes have also been given to certain Michigan hospitals.
The automaker’s Additive Manufacturing and Design Fabrication Operations teams came up with the face shield design on Monday, March 23rd and by Friday, March 27th had already finalized the design and began manufacturing shields. The shields are cut from a single piece of polyester using a table cutter that is normally used to make dashboards and other plastic parts for the automaker’s concept vehicles. GM supplier Argent International is making the 12-inch elastic bands that hold the shields in place.
In addition, GM’s interior upholstery division has undertaken the job of producing medical gowns, while its fabrication team designed the plastic aerosol boxes.
“Our team members are experts at solving problems on the fly and creating things from scratch,” said GM design fabrications director, Steve Hart. “The dedication, abilities and spirit of collaboration from our skilled tradespeople has been humbling. They are working longer hours than ever on a voluntary basis to fulfill urgent requests from doctors, nurses and other professionals on the front lines.”
The shields, medical gowns and aerosol boxes are all being made at the same Warren facility that the automaker was already producing fabric medical facemasks at. The automaker is also making ventilators at its electronics components plant in Kokomo, Indiana as part of a $490 million government contract that it was given under the Defense Production Act.
GM is encouraging any hospitals or healthcare workers in need of PPE to make a donation request by contacting it at [email protected].