Pinoy inventors create ventilators out of snorkeling masks

April Rafales, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 02 2020 05:46 PM | Updated as of May 03 2020 12:13 AM

MANILA - Saving lives is no walk in the park, but for entrepreneur and Filipino Inventors Society fellow Arnel Marcelo Andal and Autocad expert and designer Edzel Orense, they had to make things work with available materials at the moment.

Last March 27, the Philippine General Hospital teamed up with Andal and Orense to replicate a ventilator mask using a snorkeling mask that was innovated in Italy, where COVID-19 has claimed more than 27,000 lives as of writing.

The mask was intended for patients, especially those who are to be intubated. As Dr. Kris Tan explained, they only have a 20-percent chance of survival.

The team got a sponsorship for a batch of Decathlon or breathe-easy snorkeling masks, which they specifically used for the project. They made the valves out of 3D printers.

The challenge was not that simple, though, as the team had to tweak the design to make it compatible in the Philippine setting. First, they had to adjust the valves.

“Prinepare din namin 'yung mga bed, mga kama dito sa Pilipinas na hindi kagaya sa abroad 'yung iba kaya kailangan i-adjust yung anggulo ng valve para ma-accommodate 'yung mga tubo na i-aattach. So basically, mas maliit 'yung mga anggulo, mas maganda 'yung mga port, kung puwede po 'yung sa mga kama na dito po sa Pilipinas,” said Andal.

(We had to adjust the angle of the valve based on the design of hospital beds in the Philippines so it could accommodate the tube. So basically, the smaller the angle, the better the port.)

Then they thought of making the mask airtight to prevent leakage of aerosols.

"Imbes na binabaliktad-baliktad lang 'yung mga flexible silicon valves doon, ang ginawa namin nag-print kami ng mga matitigas na plug po tapos sinilicon namin para siguradong airtight siya saka hindi basta-basta natatanggal at nagkaka-leak. Delikado po 'yun, especially 'yung issue ngayon is COVID-19... 'yung leakage and aerosol issues. Tinackle namin 'yan in an engineering passion,” explained Andal.

(Instead of flipping flexible silicon valves, we printed stronger plugs then sealed them with silicon to make sure they're air tight, they can't be easily removed and won't leak. That's dangerous, especially with COVID-19, the issue is leakage and aerosol issues. We tackled that with engineering passion.)

Pinoy inventors create ventilators out of snorkeling masks 1
Pinoy inventors create ventilators out of snorkeling masks 2
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Photos from Arnel Andal

Photos from Arnel Andal

Photos from Arnel Andal

The valves were attached to the masks using a glue gun. They also made an extra, anti-aerosol shield for the mouth.

“Naka-silicone din 'yun tapos ang ginawa natin, dun sa mga straps sa likuran madali po siya minsan mag-slide, lumuwag. Ang ginawa po natin doon, glinue natin 'yung mga elastic valves na iba.”

(That's also in silicon and what we did, the straps at the back sometimes can easily slide off, get loose. What we did there was glue other elastic valves.)

Andal and Orense had to make 4 versions, and each went through rigid testing at the PGH until the team and the PGH felt it was ready for the next levels of scrutiny as it also needs clinical testing and the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.

Right now, the duo is also in the middle of creating two kinds of masks for doctors and nurses still with the use of snorkeling masks: the operating room masks and the general masks.

He noted that volunteer work is crucial in the task, as a piece of patient ventimask takes around 7 hours total printing time, and a piece of doctor and nurse mask takes around 10 to 11 hours to complete. A 3D printer group joined in to volunteer with the printing.

They are still waiting for the PGH to give the thumbs up on whether they can already roll out more pieces of the patient ventimask to hospitals in need.

The doctors and nurses mask, on the other hand, is still in the process of development, but the group is open to accommodate requests after they have tested the pieces.

“Please give us time to develop it kasi hindi po basta-basta niru-rush ang development ng mga mask na ito. Ang importante sa amin is malabas ito tapos ang doctors na lang ang magde-decide kung gusto talaga nila itong gamitin," 

(Please give us time to develop because you can't rush the development of masks like this. What's important for us is to be able to get this out and doctors decide what they want to use.)

They said they will create a social media account where they would post a list of possible mask recipients. 

"Kung sino ang magfu-fund ng mga mask na 'yun, we will try to match the recipients with donors. Kung mayroon kailangan ibenta, gagawin namin at very, very minimal income sa grupo o zero income sa grupo,” he said.

(Whoever funds that mask, we will try to match the recipients with donors. If we need to sell them, we will price it so that the group will have just minimal to zero income.)