Updated 4/8/2020, 2:00 p.m ET: We've substantially updated this story to include Maingear's answers to our questions about its move into the medical hardware space.
Maingear is joining Razer in retooling factory space to produce medical equipment for hospitals, with the announcement of the Maingear LIV ventilator. Known primarily for premium custom PC builds and the occasional mousepad, backpack or gaming chair, the New Jersey-based company is now looking to leverage its expertise and stock of parts to help hospitals -- first for its 20-minute-away New York neighbors, and eventually internationally.
Late last week, we published an interview with Maingear where representatives told us that they overforecasted a number of parts in anticipation of the coronavirus situation, which left them with a surplus that’s now available to PC customers. Now, it seems like Maingear might be making those parts available to hospitals, by combining existing components with custom gear to affordably and quickly make the Maingear LIV.
Using a touch screen interface and seemingly housed inside a repainted Silverstone PC case, the Maingear LIV will include redundant power supplies, have a quick 1.5 second activation time, feature alarms that activate in emergency situations like low lung pressure and notably, “can be produced at scale for approximately a quarter of the price of traditional ventilators.” It will also come with dedicated software, which includes preset standard values for untrained operators and more fine control options for expert caretakers.
Maingear has never produced medical equipment before, but claims that it is “quickly re-tooling much of its production space for mass assembly of the Maingear LIV.” When we reached out to Maingear CEO Wallace Santos about how it’s able to do this, he told us “The skills required to produce and assemble emergency ventilators, while aimed at a very different outcome, have a large crossover with custom liquid cooling PC assembly.”
Santos also confirmed to us that the Maingear LIV will use existing PC parts, at least for the prototype. He told us “This is actually one of our advantages...We used what we had available to rapidly design our prototype, and are working quickly on the final version that will have a custom enclosure. We are also using components that are readily available, and would allow us to mass produce them without impacting other medical supply chains. We are not overthinking this.”
As for how Maingear expects to fit into an already stressed ventilator market with larger companies looking to achieve the same goal, Santos told us “Companies, like Tesla and GM, do not have experience with medical devices either...Dyson primarily makes vacuums, fans and hairdryers; Tesla makes electric vehicles, batteries, and solar roofs; GM builds cars...The world is [a] different place right now.” He stressed to us that, despite the company’s smaller size when compared to these competitors and its background in entertainment devices, its location close to New York pressured it to help make ventilators regardless.
“We didn’t take this lightly. We brought together experts from around the world to help. They’re all sacrificing their time and energy because they believe in what we’re doing,” he told us. He then outlined Maingear’s unique approach to ventilators, which is focuses on versatility and emergency use: Chiefly, Maingear wants to make its ventilators affordable, simple to use, easy to build, and portable.
“Medical professionals are overworked, they’re getting sick, hospitals are struggling,” Santos explained. “We wanted to make this so almost anyone in the field could operate it with minimal training...they’re setting up field hospitals in stadiums; portability is an absolute must! These will hook up to any oxygen tank and you’re good to go.”
He did stress to us that “this is an emergency ventilator! In no way are we saying hospitals should replace their ventilators with this device...It’s meant for emergencies only and focuses on saving lives.”
When we asked Santos specifically how Maingear expects to keep up with ventilator production from larger companies like Dyson, he told us that its first prototypes are ready now, and that the company’s proximity to the emergency, its small size and its existing stock of parts allow it to act nimbly during this time of crisis. Now, it is simply a matter of pushing the ventilator through the FDA’s current Emergency Usage Authorization, for which Maingear has already assembled a Medical Advisory Board. “If we had FDA approval and government support we could have these in the field next week,” Santos claims.
Santos did acknowledge to us that the company doesn’t currently have any buyers lined up, nor is it in a position to donate the ventilators. However, he stressed to us that affordability is still a chief concern, with the Maingear LIV selling for “25 percent the cost of a typical ventilator.” With this price and announcement together, the PC maker is hoping to get the word out to hospitals soon.
Which brings us to Maingear’s more traditional gaming products. “We don’t have specifics on how this would impact our PC production,” Santos explained to us. “But given the current situation, we are willing to do whatever it takes to help during this pandemic.”
Both Razer and Intel are already working to produce or donate masks to meet hospital shortages, though neither has announced a ventilator yet. We'll keep you updated about how our industry is maneuvering to help provide medical aid as our world continues to grapple with coronavirus.