Ford announced on Feb. 2 that they were working on new, clear N95 masks and low-cost air filtration kits.

The company described the new masks as “transparent, low-cost, reusable respirators [that] enable a full range of human expression,” emphasizing their utility for people that need to see people’s faces to communicate. Ford’s statement said they are good options for people who are teachers, in sales or traveling by air.

“One of the things that’s missing during the pandemic is the power of a smile,” said Jim Baumbick, Ford vice president, enterprise product line management and leader of Ford’s Project Apollo personal protective equipment manufacturing effort. “This clear respirator promises to improve interactions between neighbors, at the store and for those who have hearing impairments.”

Baumbick said they are using the proceeds from other healthcare products they manufacture to create the clear respirators and air filtration kits.

Ford said they received patent pending approval for the mask design. They are testing the respirators this winter and expect them to become available starting in the spring.

They are also working on home air filtration kits to help supplement a room’s existing air filtration system. Ford’s statement said the kits are based on scientific studies from academic and governmental research.

The kit comes with a die-cut cardboard base, a 20-inch box fan and a 20x20x4 air filter with a standard minimum efficiency reporting value of 13.The filter is placed in the base and the fan is placed on top. Ford tested the kits using smoke particulate testing at an independent lab. The tests showed that the unit provides a clean-air discharge rate of 213 cubic feet per minute.

Ford collaborated with the University of Minnesota to conduct aerosol modeling studies in classroom sized spaces that showed increasing air filtration led to a lower particle concentration. Ford said the impact of the unit depends on where it’s placed and the size of the room. Their studies show that two air cleaner units in a 960-square-foot room can triple the air changes per hour compared to what a building HVAC system alone would clean, refreshing the air 4.5 times per hour.

“Our modeling results clearly show that improvements in air filtration of poorly ventilated spaces through the proper use of a portable air cleaner can help reduce the chance of breathing in contaminated aerosols,” said Dr. Jiarong Hong, mechanical engineering professor in the University of Minnesota’s college of science and engineering.

They said they plan to donate 20,000 air filtration kits to underserved communities. Ford is also offering a free, downloadable base design that people can make at home out of a cardboard box.

Ford launched Project Apollo in March to help manufacture face masks, ventilators and face shields for frontline workers.

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