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PC Vendor Maingear to Manufacture Low-Cost Emergency Ventilators (Updated)

Maingear LIV
(Image credit: Maingear)

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.

  • Olle P
    Doesn't look like a ventilator on the picture.
    Where's the (single patient use) air hose? Can it have oxygen attached?

    Cutting cost is mainly done by foregoing the couple-of-years spent on testing and validation before getting an FDA approval. (As is usually required. I don't know if there are any temporary changes in requirements.)
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    Olle P said:
    Cutting cost is mainly done by foregoing the couple-of-years spent on testing and validation before getting an FDA approval. (As is usually required. I don't know if there are any temporary changes in requirements.)
    The situation has caused them to temporarily suspend a lot of that, as it was hampering the production and supply of critical medical equipment we are short on.

    I think the more burning question is... can it run Crysis?
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Olle P said:
    Cutting cost is mainly done by foregoing the couple-of-years spent on testing and validation before getting an FDA approval. (As is usually required. I don't know if there are any temporary changes in requirements.)
    A respirator that meets the absolute barest requirements (only one mode, no feedback, minimal instrumentation and only the most basic adjustments by adjusting levers, weighs, valves, set screws, etc.) can be made from ~$200 worth of stuff from a hardware store as a dumb mechanical or pneumatic contraption.

    What drives cost and complexity up is making the smallest machine possible that can do every possible variant of every possible mode with all programmable parameters and all optional patient comfort without requiring that the operator also be a mechanic.
    Reply
  • icmn223
    Awesome, that's a Silvertone FT03-Mini case:
    https://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=333&area=en
    I love those, I have two. One black and one silver. I like how they covered up the CD slot with the phone, Lol.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    InvalidError said:
    A respirator that meets the absolute barest requirements (only one mode, no feedback, minimal instrumentation and only the most basic adjustments by adjusting levers, weighs, valves, set screws, etc.) can be made from ~$200 worth of stuff from a hardware store as a dumb mechanical or pneumatic contraption.

    What drives cost and complexity up is making the smallest machine possible that can do every possible variant of every possible mode with all programmable parameters and all optional patient comfort without requiring that the operator also be a mechanic.
    I gather that standard hospital ventilators need to be a swiss-army-knife, because hospitals often have only a few and need to use them to handle the gamut of different scenarios. So, perhaps the standard ventilators are something of a "Cadillac", when all we really need is a stripped-out Civic.

    However, I'm sure a lot goes into reliability, testing, and ensuring that the device will both provide adequate ventilation without over-pressurizing the lungs, not allowing mold to develop in the tubing/valves, and half-a-dozen other issues you probably haven't even thought of.

    If faced with a choice about whether to have no ventilator or a hackup-up model, the obvious choice is to go with the ventilator you can get. However, if there's a possibility of getting a no-frills design that's at least battle-proven, that's what I would want. And, I'm sure a lot of developing countries don't use the kind of high-end models that most US hospitals are accustomed to buying. My hope would be that, at the very least, they're using a proven design and just repurposing PC housings and power supplies.

    There should be no need to reinvent the wheel, here.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    bit_user said:
    However, I'm sure a lot goes into reliability, testing, and ensuring that the device will both provide adequate ventilation without over-pressurizing the lungs, not allowing mold to develop in the tubing/valves, and half-a-dozen other issues you probably haven't even thought of.
    If mechanical engineers can put together engines, pneumatic and hydraulic systems that can handle extreme loads for hundreds of hours and billions of cycles on end between service intervals, they should be able to design something capable of reliably driving a flesh bag at a rate of one cycle per 6-10 seconds for days at a time with relative ease.

    Preventing over-pressure is trivial: ventilation pressures are spec'd in H20 column height because pressures used to be regulated by water columns. If you over-pressure, it blows the water out, the excess pressure gets relieved and the water comes back down from its catch can. You can achieve the same result with weighed or spring-loaded valves, basic relative pressure regulators.

    Preventing mold is also trivial: simply add a sufficient amount of dry bypass air to keep moisture well below saturation during exhale cycles.
    Reply
  • gg83
    alextheblue said:
    The situation has caused them to temporarily suspend a lot of that, as it was hampering the production and supply of critical medical equipment we are short on.

    I think the more burning question is... can it run Crysis?
    what about RGB?!
    Reply
  • gg83
    https://news.mit.edu/2020/ventilator-covid-deployment-open-source-low-cost-0326
    MIT students made one 10 years ago and now they improved it. only $30
    Reply
  • gg83
    Just like during war times, we will see some major advances in certain technologies. Jet engines from WWII. A global pandemic is the only way to financially motivate big business. Also everyone wants to help. Look at Folding@home! I just read an article about CERN is using their 15,000 resercher team to focus on this. Going from a machine so complicated its miles long to a "simple" ventilator should be a piece of cake! I always have faith in humanity. Its too bad our backs need to be against the wall to do anything. We are a reactionary species.
    Reply
  • grizzlybeers
    I’m not even going to bother discussing the technical specs of this thing because I think it goes without saying that this is nothing more than a desperate way of getting free publicity. Which parts of this “ventilator” is Maingear actually making them selves? Everyone thinks they are engineers all of a sudden. Would anyone in their right mind actually want to be hooked up to this thing if their life depended on it? Chinese ventilator fighting the Chinese virus.
    Reply