It's been heartening to see the Detroit Big Three's response to the coronavirus. Quickly, we've seen major automakers get scrappy to produce much-needed personal protective gear for health care workers.
You can add Toyota to the Arsenal of Innovation, because it's ready to step into the fight against COVID-19 as well. On Friday, the Japanese automaker said it's ready to start production of two critical pieces of medical gear in North America to help those on the front lines. Like Ford, Toyota said it will begin mass production of 3D-printed face shields and it's seeking a partner to begin production of masks. The company said it's ready to start mask production, but it needs a partner to supply filters that keep virus particles at bay.
On the matter of ventilators and respirators, Toyota says it's working with at least two undisclosed companies to produce both pieces of equipment. General Motors, Ford and Tesla have all said they're working quickly to ramp up ventilator production with partners, and may even build the machines in-house.
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Ford said it could build a simplified ventilator design with GE at one of its factories, but it also detailed work on a new respirator design. The piece of equipment includes a portable battery pack to keep it powered, and ventilated seat fans from an F-150 to circulate clean air with 3M HEPA filters. Remarkable.
Toyota will send the first face shields to local Texas hospitals, but plans shipments to Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan. The automaker also rounded up other essential supplies from its operations, like N95 masks and safety goggles, and donated them to health care workers.
The automaker previously shut down its entire North American manufacturing operations to slow the spread of COVID-19. Originally, the shutdown was planned to last until April 3, but on March 26, the automaker extended the suspension until April 20.