Rising to the occasion
Following approval, we’ll make 100 ventilators for stand by in the first week, and gradually build capacity to 2,000 for the worst-case scenario.
A company started by fresh Omani graduates in 2013 has responded to the need of the hour. The startup InnoTech first forayed into developing educational kits for children to learn the basics of electronics. Two weeks ago, however, when hospitals in Oman started running out of stocks and imports from China became scarce, InnoTech began designing masks and face shields using Open-source software.
The company is now making face shields with 3D printers. Approved by the Ministry of Health (MoH), these are being used at The Royal Hospital among other medical and commercial facilities.
The source code of Open-source software are released by copyright holders allowing users the right to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. “But the designs available in Open-source didn’t meet MoH specifications, so we had to design from scratch,” said Othman al Mandhari, founder and CEO of InnoTech.
Once the design for the face shields was approved, InnoTech started 3D printing, now 300 a day at full capacity. “Both masks (the face mask and the face shield) must be used together. Hospitals are running out of transparent masks,” Mandhari informed. While the company can take orders from any business – including private hospitals, pharmacies and restaurants – its priority at this point in time is supplying The Royal Hospital.
The face shields cost RO3.800 a piece but the price can vary depending on the size of the order. “There’s a small difference in design and dimensions between those used by medical professionals and others for regular use,” Mandhari clarified. “The printers cost anything between RO500-RO4,000, depending on size, specifications, printing material used and brand.”
Mandhari claims InnoTech was the first Omani company to venture into 3D printing, eventually turning its focus to spare parts for machines and pipelines for clients in the oil and gas sector and factories. “Now there are other Omani businesses also making use of Open source to offer the facility,” he said.
Being the main supplier in Oman of plastic used for 3D printing, InnoTech has available stock of the raw material needed for the face shields. According to a MoH estimate, it’ll need 5,000 single-use face shields this month, Mandhari said. He estimates the private sector will require another 5,000 of these this month.
InnoTech will also start making ventilators following final test of design on Sunday. Comprising 32 pieces of electronics – including resistors and wires – available locally, Mandhari described making ventilators as ‘a very different ball game’. “Following approval, we’ll make 100 ventilators for stand by in the first week, and gradually build capacity to 2,000 for the worst-case scenario.”
Winner of the Riyada Best Entrepreneur Award Oman 2017, InnoTech has a core team of ten fulltime engineers in Muscat and Sohar. The young company currently also makes electronic parts and is in talks for investments to start metal and concrete 3D printing. “Very soon, we will offer A to Z in 3D printing,” Mandhari said.