Jury rigging the pandemic: Ford's Powered Air Purifying Respirator

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/03/25/jury-rigging-the-pandemic-for.html


I’m actually mildly surprised that Trump hasn’t utilized the Defense Production Act to force American companies to make medical equipment like ventilators, respirators, masks and so on instead of just waiting for them to step up on their own accord.

It seems like the kind of dick-waving executive power move that he’s wanted to pull since he took office, but I guess if he tried it there’s always the risk he might actually help people in need.


Trump is looking for a way to grift that system, and until he does Trump won’t pull that trigger.


I’m interested in seeing what Dyson can come up with, like a filtered respirator that doesn’t lose suction like its competitors.


Medical equipment is not the kind of manufacturing that you can ramp up in weeks. There’s a huge amount of healthcare-specific standards, testing, etc. involved. Medtronic can build up capacity for some of their stuff because they have WIP (work in progress) already for a lot of the long-leadtime stuff like microelectronics. (More on that elsewhere)

Ford, conveniently, is not producing the kind of respirator that a patient gets connected to. Those would take until it didn’t matter any more. This thing is just environmental protection of the caregivers and is not fundamentally different from industrial protection gear. Even so they would normally require specific testing of the sort that differentiates the masks you use when stripping old woodwork from the ones in hospitals. Both are N95, but …

That was news to me. Thanks, Boing Boing.


Medical equipment manufacturers are lobbying against it because they want a situation where limited supply drives up prices and maximizes profits. Patient deaths due to shortages don’t concern them.

Medical equipment manufacturers were also one of the biggest opponents of Obamacare because they hated the provisions giving the federal government stronger controls over pricing.

They were huge funders of the GOP wave of 2010, and have been cashing in chits ever since – the big GOP push to repeal Obamacare in 2017 was in large part driven by the GOP trying to pay them back. The GOP is now bending over backwards to keeo them happy.


There’s also the chance that something he would approve would backfire and he would have to take the blame.

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I think that depends on how badly the equipment is needed. For example, if hospitals are facing a scenario in which they simply don’t have enough N95 masks to protect medical workers on the front lines then I can easily imagine regulatory agencies fast-tracking emergency temporary approvals for companies that don’t normally manufacture that sort of thing to get in the game.

Even if the process ends up taking months instead of weeks it’s better to start sooner than later.


Didn’t stop him from going on TV to tout chloroquine as a miracle cure.


They can fast-track the stuff like masks because 3M is already making them for industry (and people like me have a score or so in the workshop – which I have already donated now that they can use them.)

ICU-type respirators are something else. They have specialized tooling that can’t be wished into existence or repurposed, they’re made on med-grade production lines because contaminants piped straight into your lungs are Bad, they need specialized testing even so for functional reasons. Also, the electronics are slightly more than you can put together from an Arduino or Pi and the testing to make sure you don’t kill the patient is for some reason kind of fussy.

Much easier, frankly, to have Medtronic put on another shift and pay a premium for an accelerated supply chain. Not including the special semiconductors, which can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months per batch.


As I understand the terminology, those are ventilators.


Assuming you’re talking about ventilators. In which case the Iron Lung has been around since the 1920s. In an emergency situation where so many lives may hang in the balance I don’t see any practical reason why they couldn’t build a bunch of those in relatively short order with readily available technology.


Yup – but I’ve seen both terms used interchangeably in covering Ford and sometimes the other way in the recent press coverage.

He’s already established that if anything goes wrong it’s not his fault.

Also, per BrainSpore and negative-pressure respiratory assistance: yeah “iron lungs” can be jury-rigged quick and cheap. In the 50s, they were too. They do have their limitations when the lungs themselves are messed up, but to resurrect an oldie but goodie: “Needs must when the Devil drives.” Alternately, “Necessity is a mutha.”


Praise the Ford!

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I heard it is pressure from a business org - which I won’t name because I don’t want to be hypocrite about spreading rumors. But possibly something like that.

Clearly people like 3M are making as many masks as they can, I expect so is everyone else making mission critical items (they should have started this ~2 months ago, but I digress.)

Depends on the item. Complex machinery requires a ton of custom tooling to make anything in bulk. But could they make specific parts to fill in gaps in production, possibly. And not just GM etc, but the hundreds (thousands?) of subcontractors who already make parts.

Also a device like this one in the post would do in an emergency, where some of the normal safety checks need to be waived temporarily, as long as they work. There are also stories of makers out there helping out with everything form parts repair to making masks.

So - agree it won’t be magically making $100,000+ complex machines in a couple weeks, but could still make something to help.

That I haven’t heard and doesn’t make sense, because selling every device you can make is how you make healthy profits AND get good PR. I don’t think such speculation is helpful.


Another option is making parts for ventilators https://forbes.it/2020/03/24/coronavirus-respiratori-ferrari-fca-e-siare-produzione-ventilatori-polmonari/ Ferrari/FCA have started to mache mechanical and electronic components to build ventilators with the blueprints from the maker of a medically approved model.


That’s some Apollo 13 sh*t right there

I can see an empty portion of the factory with all the parts for an F150 in a pile and saying “Fit This Into the Hole for This using Nothing but that…”


Makers in Italy are already making valves for ventilators using additive methods. Works better for onesy-twosy stuff like spares than high-volume runs, though.

PPE (personal protective equipment) is less tightly regulated than life-critical equipment for some reason. Thus, Ford.

On the other hand, Medtronic has custom control electronics for ventilators that can’t be replaced in any usable sense without massive NREs (non-recurring expenses, especially tooling and labor.)

Case by case.

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Now all we have to do is make it look sexy.