Corona Warriors: How this IIT Madras-nurtured start-up shifted from making aerospace components to ways to safeguard doctors

You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level – Albert Einstein.

Fabheads Automation, a start-up nurtured at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras did exactly the same when it decided to make “intubation boxes” to safeguard doctors who were finding it increasingly difficult to protect themselves from the highly contagious novel coronavirus as India grappled with shortage of protection gear.

The concept of intubation boxes was new to the world and India just as COVID-19 till last year.

Critical COVID-19 patients require ventilator support. For this, a tube is inserted in the windpipe and this procedure is called intubation. This procedure is risky as liquid splash from the patient's airpipe are released, while the oxygen tube is inserted into oesophagus. Even with all protective gears worn by doctors and nurses, the splash carries a high risk of infection transmission.

“We learnt that the countries like Taiwan are using transparent acrylic boxes to cover the upper body of the patients which helps healthcare providers to protect themselves from virus loaded splash while they insert oxygen tube into oesophagus. Our team started consulting doctors abroad and fabricated five intubation boxes with available raw material,” Abhijeet Rathore, founder and chief technology officer of Fabheads Automation tells FPJ.

The boxes have been supplied to two hospitals in Chennai and are currently being used. Abhijeet says, “The use of box reduces the risk of infection to the health staff from the aerosols by up to 95 per cent. Besides, it is easy to sanitize, hence can be reused.”

The manufacturing cost of one box is approximately Rs 4,000. However, largescale production may bring it down considerably, says the team which is ready with a capacity of 70-100 boxes per week and can scale up if more are required.

The firm is already in talks with hospitals in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. “We look forward to get bulk purchase orders by the government is possible. Simultaneously, the team would seek certification from relevant global medical standards,” says Abhijeet.

The firm, founded by two ex-ISRO IIT-alumnus, is mainly into niche manufacturing capabilities mainly for aerospace, defence and drones. Over 20 IIT graduates are part of this venture.

“Realising the need of the hour, they switched into making intubation box by acquiring various permissions from the authorities to work during the lockdown,” says Prof Ashok Kumar Mishra, Dean, Academic Research, IIT Madras lauding the youngsters.

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