Car Stereo to Aerosol Box: An Entrepreneur Shifts to Producing PPE for Doctors
“During the lockdown period, we don’t have work, our shop is closed,” says Gen Belanio, an entrepreneur based in Marikina who owns a car accessories business, Gen Concept. “I thought, 'How can I help our frontliners?'”
An aerosol box protects frontliners.
Belanio's shop manufactures customized car stereos and other hardware, which requires a great deal of plastic. Now he is repurposing this plastic to make aerosol boxes, which he donates to hospitals.
These transparent boxes go over the upper body of patients lying down for medical procedures; for example, patients who need to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. Offering an extra protective screen, the aerosol boxes help protect the doctors carrying out the procedure from infection. Amid the struggle to ensure sufficient stocks of face masks and other protective gear, this added layer of protection is a welcome relief for medical front-liners.
“We use our own equipment,” says Belanio about how the boxes are made. “We take the measurements of the acrylic sheet, we cut the aerosol box manually, and we use sanding paper to smooth out the edges. Then we use a torch flame to remove the sanding marks.” Circular holes, into which doctors can insert their hands to carry out procedures, are also cut into the panels with a circular saw.
Gen Concept tweaks the aerosol box's design.
Similar protective screens and boxes have been used in hospitals in Taiwan. The aerosol box was first invented by Hsien-Yung Lai, an anesthesiologist based in Hualien, Taiwan, and the design was shared online in March. The Taiwanese prototype has since been replicated and adapted, with hospitals around the world, from Japan to the U.S., starting to request batches of aerosol boxes.
Belanio has studied the designs of other manufacturers and made some changes. “Some of them are a little bit small,” he says, adding that aerosol boxes he had found were just 40cm x 40cm cubes. “Our measurements are 60cm x 40cm x 50cm for people with wider shoulders.”
He also thinks other manufacturers make them too thin. “Maybe, when you clean it, it might break if you put too much pressure,” he says. That is why Belanio has opted for an 8mm-thick plastic screen, as opposed to some other designs which are only 3mm thick.
Some manufacturers use glue or other adhesives to stick the panels of the box together, whereas Belanio’s design involves bending an entire sheet of acrylic and then using screws to attach the front panel, which he finds more secure and durable.
The company donates aerosol boxes to Metro Manila and Mindoro.
The feedback from medical frontliners so far has been good. Belanio has friends and family who work as doctors or hospital staff and they have been using the Gen Concept aerosol boxes for the past few weeks. “They compared it to other boxes,” he says. “They said it’s more heavy-duty and easier for them to sanitize.”
“Every day, we continue to manufacture aerosol boxes,” says Belanio. “I will have more staff when the ECQ is lifted. During the lockdown I only have one staff member to work with me. We make one box a day.” Gen Concept has a total of five staff members who will have to craft these boxes manually. At full manpower, Belanio estimates they can make 10 boxes a day.
Many manufacturers around the world are selling their aerosol boxes, while Gen Concept is donating them free of charge to hospitals. The production of Belanio’s boxes is funded by his business partners and wedding sponsors: lawyer Rod Libunao and businessman Januario Jesus Atencio, who runs an asset management firm. Libuano was the one who heard about the Taiwanese aerosol boxes and he helped Belanio design his version.
The first units of their aerosol boxes have been donated to hospitals in Metro Manila, such as Philippine General Hospital and East Avenue Medical Center, and some have been sent to doctors they know in Mindoro. At full staff, Gen Concept will aim to increase its output and send aerosol boxes to more hospitals and continue production well after the lockdown is lifted.
“For as long as they need our help, we can keep making them,” says Belanio. “Every one of us can help fight these problems, by mutual care and by helping each other. Each one of us can contribute our individual talents and resources to fight against this pandemic.”