Rover Jones, Negosentro | Why this Tech Firm Shifted from Maritime Devices to Making the Ruwah – A First Responder Ventilator | A typical day at Futuristic Aviation and Maritime Enterprise, or FAME for short, is that its chief innovator and co-CEO, Engr. Junjun Fetizanan, Jr., is out on a mission somewhere where there’s water. Whether that’s in Occidental Mindoro or General Santos City where he helps fisherfolk tag their catch of Tuna, in Palawan where FAME has laboratory, or outside the country where USAID – one of its main sponsors – brings them.
That’s because FAME is known for its platform and devices that run transponders using the LoRA protocols. In simpler terms, FAME has created a platform that uses radio waves to transmit small packets of data for use in Maritime and help support food sustainability through catch documentation.
But a week ago, things have suddenly changed. The board declared an “all hands on-deck” in making the Ruwah, which stands for Respiratory Utility With Actuator Help. It is a device that acts as a first responder breathing apparatus for COVID-19 patients while waiting for a ventilator in emergency rooms and hospitals. It is designed to be cost-effective and easy to assemble. The application and system that comes with the Ruwah are web-based and with information that can be accessed through any browser on desktop and mobile devices (tablet or phone). It can be powered by electricity, a Lithium-ion battery or even through solar power.
With its executives based in Metro Manila where a Luzon-wide lockdown was declared on March 17 to help fight the spread of the Covid-19 virus, there was no way that anyone will be traveling by sea or air to any island in the country.
However, with the rise in Covid-19 cases, Engr. Fetizanan started to look into devices that were critical in treating patients. His eyes locked on respirators. His father is 82 years old and is in the most vulnerable category. If these things were running out in first world countries, how much more in the Philippines?
He knew he had to do something using is innovative mind. Researching online, he found an old MIT-created device that acted as a mini-ventilator. Tinkering with his mind, he imagined using a robotic arm to press and release an ambu bag. Adept at using various sensors and tiny electronic and mechanical parts, the Mechanical Engineer and Tech Whiz in him allowed him to produce a prototype from whatever parts he could salvage, including PVC pipes and plastic ties.
“I called it Ruwah – a word that meant ‘breath of God’ in Hebrew,” Fetizanan said. He initially showed a photo to his partners who immediately took interest in them.
“Call it timing, but we knew right there and then that it was about saving lives,” Fetizanan added.
In fact, one of his partners and FAME’s Chief Strategist, Homer Nievera, who ran a Facebook Group synthesizing and sharing news and stories on the lockdown and Covid-19, ran a post asking for help in acquiring a 3D printer. This was to be used in making parts for the Ruwah. Many took interest to lend their 3D printers. By the next day, Nievera was able to arrange sending an industrial 3D printer to Engr. Fetizanan’s home in Quezon City.
“In 5 minutes from posting it on the Stay Strong PH Facebook Group, people were messaging me to lend their printers. It was bayanihan in its truest form,” shared Nievera.
A personal post Fetizanan on his Facebook account and that original post by Nievera on his Facebook Group eventually was shared to other groups and other people that led to a video interview for a social blog. Those posts went viral reaching Filipinos across the world in search of ways they could help. The Ruwah, now with a better-defined acronym, became a centerpiece for support. Sen. Sonny Angara mentioned FAME and Ruwah in his Business Mirror column.
It was obvious that no country in the world was prepared for a pandemic such as Covid-19 that left severe and critical patients gasping for ventilator support. In the Philippines, with more than 3,000 reported and confirmed cases as of this writing, that would mean 150 ventilators would be needed now. If cases tripled in say, 2 weeks, where would the country get 300 ventilators when every country who made them were practically holding their stocks for themselves?
A Breath of Fresh Air
The Ruwah by FAME is indeed something worth supporting, plus other similar devices that may be in the works. According to FAME’s co-CEO and CFO, Zes Martinez, they need all the support especially at this critical stage when time is of the essence.
The bayanihan spirit, they said, is what’s keeping them going. The show of support from Filipinos everywhere, to them, is like a breath of fresh air because they are supporting a Filipino-made product meant to save Filipino lives.
“We don’t have weeks or months to make this happen. We need resources to build at least 100 devices in a few weeks,” Martinez said with a visibly worried look on his face.
“We only need 31 million pesos to build 1,000 units,” added Martinez
When asked what exactly FAME needs to produce the Ruwah, Fetizanan said that a steady supply of ambu bags, flow meters, robotic arms and 3D printers will help them make as many as they can.
“In fact, we already re-allocated 100% of our current small staff that includes PWDs to help us make the Ruwah,” revealed Fetizanan.
Nievera said that one supporter of the project was able to solicit two places that can be used as a makeshift assembly plant where social distancing can be observed.
Work has Begun
From the initial prototype, FAME is now creating the actual product based on some donations and small purchases of parts. Fetizanan said that some 3D printed parts will take 9 hours to make.
FAME has started to get inquiries and orders, from even as far as the Middle East. And it’s been barely a week since they set out on this project. But without a field test and an FDA approval, they just can’t put out commercially yet.
“DOST has been helping us all the way,” revealed Fetizanan. He is confident that FAME will be on time in helping frontliners accomplish their work.
“The government has been helpful, so has been the private sector,” Martinez said.
When asked how many units are they looking at creating, Fetizanan said that they are targeting 200 fully-built units within two to three weeks, should they get a go signal from the FDA.
Fetizanan added that FAME will be giving out the designs to tech hubs, and school-based fab labs and technology business incubators nationwide. This is for them to be able to help in scaling the manufacturing of the Ruwah.
FAME will just be providing the Ruwah controller that includes: the micro and servo controller, casing, battery and the firmware and software needed run the system.
“This crisis has brought the Filipinos together for a common goal of fighting Covid-19,” Nievera added. Indeed, with the bayanihan spirit very much alive these days, every Filipino is in the frontline – contributing time, talent and treasure for a common cause. Because every Filipino life is valuable.