3M (NYSE:MMM) is increasing its N95 mask production capacity at a heady pace as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. At the same time, 3M has also partnered with automaker Ford (NYSE:F) to boost production of 3M's Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) by six-fold in the coming weeks.

3M's latest target: produce 2 billion N95 masks

N95 masks are a common particulate-filtering face respirator mask, which filters out 95% of airborne particles. Demand for the mask has blown through the roof after the coronavirus outbreak, leading to a severe global shortage. 3M is a leading N95 respirator manufacturer, with production facilities in the U.S., Europe, Asia (particularly China), and Latin America.

Some weeks ago, 3M contracted with the U.S. government to increase production of N95 masks, aiming to:

  • double global annual N95 production to 1.1 billion, or about 100 million per month.
  • manufacture 35 million masks per month in the U.S. alone

3M's facilities in the U.S. originally manufactured a little more than 400 million N95 respirators each year before the COVID-19 outbreak.

An N95 mask on a table.

3M is rapidly increasing production of COVID-19 N95 masks. mage source: Getty Images.

In a statement released March 31 , 3M announced an even more aggressive plan, now targeting:

  • annual global production of 2 billion N95 respirators, or double its earlier target.
  • 50 million masks per month in the U.S., starting June 2020.

In short, 3M is increasing its monthly N95 mask production in the U.S. by 40% from current levels and global production two-fold over the next 12 months.

3M further revealed where and how its N95 masks are reaching those who need them the most in the U.S.:

  • 80% of its supply is directly reaching healthcare workers and facilities through 3M's healthcare logistics chain.
  • 20% is being supplied to the federal government, with a major portion going to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

3M said it's collaborating with sterilization companies to ensure its N95 masks reach safely such that they can be reused to their maximum potential.

Going beyond N95

3M has also partnered with Ford to boost production of PAPRs, "highly specialized pieces of equipment used in the most demanding healthcare environments", targeting a six-fold jump in production within the "60 to 90 days."

3M and Ford are jointly working to develop next generation PAPRs -- possibly at one of Ford's Michigan facilities -- that can last up to eight hours, maintain air flow, and filter airborne contaminants, which can carry virus-bearing droplets. Ford is also collaborating with 3M in other relevant areas while working with other healthcare equipment providers like General Electric to boost production of critical equipment.

In a separate statement, 3M reaffirmed its efforts to combat "price gouging, fraud and counterfeit activity in connection with its products and the COVID-19 outbreak."