Ford Motor Company (F -0.51%) said that it has designed a new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) to protect health-care workers and first responders, with help from 3M (MMM -1.37%). 

The PAPR units are designed to provide wearers with filtered air in contaminated environments and are used by health-care workers in hospital wards treating COVID-19 patients. Respirators are different from ventilators, the hospital-grade machines used to help severely ill patients breathe. Both respirators and ventilators are in critically short supply.

Herr is wearing a small machine on her back, connected to a hood with a black hose.

Ford engineer Jennifer Herr-Rathke is shown wearing the PAPR that Ford developed in conjunction with 3M. Image source: Ford Motor Company. 

Ford said that it worked closely with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as it developed the respirator to ensure that its design met all current standards. It will begin manufacturing the respirators on Tuesday at an idled parts factory in Michigan, it said.

With its factories idled amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ford has been working with 3M since late March to find ways to put its manufacturing and supply chain to work to assist efforts to bring the outbreak under control. In addition to the respirators, the automaker has already begun manufacturing face shields for hospital workers and first responders, and it is preparing to produce ventilators in a separate effort with General Electric (GE -2.17%).

In a press conference on Monday, Ford said that it has also now begun producing masks, that it is working with a supplier of airbag materials, Joyson Safety Systems, to make reusable gowns for health-care workers out of the fabric typically used for airbags, and that it is is helping scientific-instrument maker Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO -0.90%) scale up production of COVID-19 collection kits. 

Ford is one of several automakers that has scrambled to produce supplies to aid health-care workers and first responders during the pandemic. General Motors (GM -1.30%) is also preparing to make ventilators, and said last week that it has begun producing masks at a site in Warren, Michigan.