The respirators, which come with a hood and face shield, can supply filtered air to health care workers for up to eight hours as they battle the deadly coronavirus.

Health care workers in Seattle will be the first recipients of powered air-purifying respirators made by 90 paid UAW volunteers in Ford Motor Co.'s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock.

The respirators, which come with a hood and face shield, can supply filtered air to health care workers for up to eight hours as they battle the deadly coronavirus.

In a separate action, Ford said the State of New Jersey had placed an order for 500,000 reusable gowns for health care workers, adding to the 400,000 gowns made by suppliers and shipped around the country by Ford to date.

The effort to develop and build the respirators took fewer than 40 days to pull off and is in partnership with 3M, which is handling sales and distribution for the equipment and provided design guidance, according to Ford Wednesday. The companies plan to donate any profits to related organizations.

Ford said Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle is the first customer to take delivery of respirators.

“This important equipment will help ensure the safety of our patients, doctors, nurses and other members of the Virginia Mason care teams during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Steve Schaefer, senior vice president of support services for the medical center.

As the scope of the coronavirus pandemic has become more clear, a lack of adequate personal protective equipment has become a major focus, and automakers have been stepping in to help fill the void.

“Ford could not stand by while health care workers in this country placed their lives on the line to help others without even having proper protection,” Jim Baumbick, vice president of Ford Enterprise Product Line Management, said. “That’s why we kicked off an all-out sprint to protect those who are so selflessly helping patients afflicted with this terrible virus.”

One of the paid UAW volunteers, Michele Strong, has been with the company for almost 43 years, having worked at both Flat Rock Assembly and the Rouge complex, according to Ford.

I’m proud of all of the vehicles I’ve help build over the years, but this is something totally different. I’m up for this experience to help the world — to help the situation we’ve got. A lot of friends ask me, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ and I say, ‘Yes. It’s the right thing to do,’ ” she said.

The respirators combine a mix of new and off-the-shelf parts from more than 10 companies in Ford's supply chain, according to the company.

"Components include hood tops for the wearer’s head and shoulders, filters and fans for supplying filtered air, power electronics, switches, foam seals and more," the release said. "The air blower system — similar to the fan in the Ford F-150’s ventilated seats — is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders."

Engineers relied on vehicle seat trim expertise to design the hoods, and the respirators were prototyped using 3D printing. Production of the respirators took about three weeks to start, Ford said.