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Ford Motor Co. plans to build respirators at Flat Rock Assembly Plant, according to the local United Auto Workers union representing employees there.

The automaker did not immediately confirm the plans. Three 10-hour shifts of paid volunteers are being recruited to start working as soon as next week, according to the transcript of a Tuesday evening robocall from the human resources department at the Mustang plant that was posted on Facebook by Local 3000.

"This is a call to action for a cause that transcends everyday comforts," the robocall said, according to the transcript. "It is an opportunity to make a bad situation better, and help our medical professionals, first responders, and all affected by COVID-19."

The facility is indefinitely closed with the rest of Ford's manufacturing plants because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The respirator assembly would be performed at the Roush Building off Vreeland Road, according to the robocall. Additional measures would be put in place to protect volunteers.

Ford said last week it was partnering with the 3M Co. to boost production of its powered air-purifying respirators tenfold. The Dearborn automaker was helping to design a simpler version that uses the fan in cooled seats of F-150 pickup trucks. Ford said it was looking to build them in a Michigan facility.

Respirators filter the air for health-care workers and last longer than N95 face masks, the companies said when they announced the partnership. The United States is facing shortages of such personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ford also is helping GE Healthcare to double its production of ventilators, the devices that help COVID-19 patients breathe in severe cases. On Monday, the automaker said it was building simple ventilators GE Healthcare is licensing from Airon Corp., a small manufacturer in Florida, at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti. Production there is expected to begin the week of April 20 with paid volunteers, and Ford will build 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.

"Ford is humbled to work with 3M, GE Healthcare and the UAW to manufacture medical equipment to help those on the front lines fighting COVID-19," Ford said in a statement Tuesday evening when asked about Flat Rock. "We’ll have more to share about this in the future."

Ford has said it also will 3D-printed disposable respirators at its Redford Township advanced manufacturing facility. Its subsidiary, Troy Design & Manufacturing Co. in Plymouth, already is making face shields for health-care workers and first responders.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

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