Indian Makers Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic By Producing Oxygen Concentrators

We’ve all spent the last year or more under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, and though some of us may have been vaccinated or come through its various waves it remains far from over. One of the hardest-hit parts of the world at the moment is in India, where health services are struggling to maintain adequate oxygen supply such is the demand for it from sick patients.

India’s hacker and maker community have risen to the challenge and done their bit to supply needed resources, and fresh from last year’s PPE manufacturing efforts a group from the Makers Asylum hackerspace in Goa have launched upon a fresh challenge. They aim to start producing the established open-source OxiKit oxygen concentrator in the Indian hackerspace community using locally manufactured parts, and they’ve launched a crowdfunding effort to cover their development, prototyping, and certification work.

The oxygen concentrator project builds on Makers Asylum’s experience last year as part of an extremely successful network of makerspaces producing PPE, which demonstrates that they have the resources, logistics, and ability to take on a project of this size. The OxiKit is no hare-brained contraption but an established and successful design that is already at work, so we believe that this project has a good chance of success. It’s close to home for Hackaday too, and one of the people involved with it is our colleague [Anool Mahidharia].

In a global pandemic only a global response can overcome the incredible challenges before us. For that reason we’d like to urge you to take a look at the Makers Asylum page wherever you are, and if you can, support it.

56 thoughts on “Indian Makers Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic By Producing Oxygen Concentrators

    1. A previous HaD article about the Oxikit put capability at 16L per minute. Some other data (from comments/article) for scale, a healthy “normal” person requires 2L per minute, a ICU COVID patients get around 45-55L per minute, moderately sick patients may get 6-8L per minute (which where the Oxikit seemed to be focusing).

      So it could make a big different to moderately sick patients who would deteriorate if they where taken off O2.

      1. I’m by no means an expert, but 45-55L/m sounds very high. For scuba diving, we regularly assume a surface consumption rate of 20L/m, which is total gas volume consumed, not the oxygen content. I find it hard to believe an ICU patient would breathe 2-3 times more than that.

        While this isn’t exactly medical quality, in an emergency as presently in India, anything that keeps people alive will do. Please do add some filters to prevent zeolite dust from being inhaled.

        1. It is very high – the large volume of oxygen used in high flow delivery devices is also to support the pressure / respiratory efforts of the patient, not just to provide oxygen. A lot of the oxygen delivery devices used in medicine do not make a remotely good seal, so they use up way more oxygen than the patient actually is consuming.

          1. yea an interview with an indian gov. minister on BBC today was saying that they have plenty of oxygen. They lack a way to transport it from source to the needed areas in the volume its needed right now. The also lack the containers to hold it. So its its the spike in demand thats hitting them hardest. So I guess concentrators like this help by producing a the point of use really.

          2. I saw a few days ago that the oxygen was being taken away from the ship breaking industry (taking ships apart for metal recycling) – so industrial use is being limited and oxygen being shifted to medical needs

          3. I heard on the news the other night (for what that’s worth) that people are buying oxygen for their relatives on the black market, so it’s probably industrial oxygen/

          4. It was on BBC news that they are using industrial oxygen too – but even with that, you’ve got to think about the population (well over 1 billion people), the difficulties with logistics due to poor infrastructure, etc. so I’d say everything helps.

          5. The government has mandated this already. I think the producers may need to add some extra steps to scrub the O2 of trace gases.
            O2 production is not an issue. As dave b said, there’s plenty of capacity.
            Getting it from source to destination is the bottleneck. Many of the production centres are pretty far off (North East India, West India) and there are only so many LOX tankers available for transport from A to B. It’s a logistics nightmare.

          6. And, O2 in the black market has become rampant. People ARE lining up to refill cylinders from industrial sources, but being the black market, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are getting just plain air or low concentration O2.

          7. It’s a war zone sort of tactic, but industrial O2 isn’t monitored as closely during production for traces of CO or other hydrocarbons. Our government has however already started repurposing industrial supplies for medical use though.

        2. Scuba is for one person, a family focussed oxygen generator is what we’re gunning for. In Lockdowns, the whole family is getting infected immediately.
          And We would love to have your inputs on alternate designs that you feel would work (Its all a moonshot, right..being able to breathe)
          Join the gang, or send a sample, or donate money , or shut up, or give us more skepticism (we’re not in short supply of that for sure)

  1. Some minor comments;
    Add exhaust diffusers to reduce blowdown noise.
    Divert exhaust over aftercooler to increase cooling.
    Move analyzer closer to reduce latency.
    Nice simple project!

  2. I recently bought a concentrator on amazon for myself. Since they’re supposed to be prescription only and rent-to-own, they don’t tend to stay up there long, but are not super expensive ($359 for the one I got) and make 1-2 l/m of pretty pure oxygen a minute. Mine draws 112 watts and is pretty quiet, works well for my needs at present. The project shown here is for a pretty extreme 15 l/m which would be for a non re-breathing mask rather than nose canula. That’d be for someone with a very serious need. The home hospice gal was here today to arrange for that service and was astonished that I could get such a thing, and how quiet an efficient it is. You can guess the country of origin..starts with a C. These show up from time to time until someone in the medical biz objects to them being sold outright for what would be a month’s rent to them otherwise…
    FWIW, my doctor approves.

    1. They are pretty extreme, thats one harsh thing about this disease. COPD patients generally have a 85-90% o2 saturation wandering around. (100% is normal people). Cov19 patients by the time they fall obviously ill can be 60% or lower, doctors have reported patients with o2 sats they used to consider incompatible with life. So they are severely compromised by the time they get to the hospital and need more oxygen than a typical chronically ill lyng disease sufferer would on an everyday basis.

    2. There are large numbers of used/surplus oxy concentrators sold on ebay for hobby usage. (Us glassworkers go through a lot of oxygen.) Usually the reason they’re up is because as medical devices they have strict limits on how many hours they can run before the zeolite chambers have to be replaced, and often it’s cheaper to sell them used and buy new ones than to go through the hassle of getting them rebuilt. At least in the US there are a fairly wide variety of used oxygen concentrators, not all of which are from China. Craigslist used to have a fair number, too.
      The more difficult thing about buying used is you don’t know if you’re getting one that’s just high time, or if you’re getting one that someone’s pieced together from totally thrashed parts that are falling apart. There was a local refurb place who would discard stuff that wasn’t economical to repair, and I knew a guy who was going through their garbage and getting the discards and managing to get them physically running but with who knows what actual oxygen concentration performance.

  3. Not to diminish the genuine horror going on in India right now, and the worse yet to come, but it’s worth noting that the current infection rate is about the same as Germany, Italy and Canada right now, and only a bit higher than the current US numbers.

    The US had more than double this infection rate for more than two months straight just 3 months ago.
    The US currently still has a higher death rate than India, and has had more than than since Halloween, and in January peaked at more than six times the current Indian death rate.

    Which only serves to illustrate just how awful this is might become.

    But the UK managed to turn around a similar rate of rise of infections and deaths, so there is hope.

    1. I thought the same until today, because that’s the picture you get from the published figures…

      But I work at a US company with offices in India and US-based employees recently from India, and from what I’ve been hearing from coworkers it sounds much worse than anything the US has seen. With the possible exception of NYC last year, but it’s a variant that’s spreading faster and harder to contain.

      Numeric comparisons are tenuous right now. I read a few articles over the weekend that talked about pervasive government-driven suppression of data. The US numbers weren’t perfect of course but the problem seems orders of magnitude worse (pun sadly intended).

      And the US generally has more healthcare resources per capita, and more reliable infrastructure.

    2. Yup, we’re doing well in the U.K., though not as well as Israel – though their smaller population makes it easier for them.

      Although we had a slow start getting lockdowns in place, being free of EU red tape did pay off for us with the speed we could obtain and deploy vaccines. The papers love to rip into the government, but they’re not done a bad job, all things considered.

    3. You are right, but the health care system (or rather the lack of one) isn’t geared to suddenly deal with this large surge. Almost every city and town has had to create makeshift Covid treatment centres. Plus, just scaling number of beds doesn’t help if there aren’t enough Doctors and Nurses / Caregivers to go around.

  4. That’s the same kind of gadget I’ve used to dry air. I hope I haven’t been putting oxygen into waveguide all these years. Or does this work differently? I’m no chemist.

    1. Depends on what you are passing your air through. These devices use Molecular Sieve Zeolites (like Sodium 13X or Lithium X), which grab on to N2 molecules, and allow O2 to pass through. Zeolites get degraded when exposed to moisture, so feeding dry air at the input is important. What media/material do you use to dry the air ?

  5. I have to wonder what the engineer who designed that dual-head compressor assembly feels about it having gone from a high-end product, to having its construction outsourced, to having it duplicated in off-brand import machines, to appearing in a lifesaving device like this.

    1. Probably grateful that economics is not the primary driving force in today’s world. Saving lives is IMHO more important than collecting money from patents. When we move away from an adversarial IP system, we transition to a higher society.

      1. Anool, What do you need. Do you have list of materials. I spoke to someone in Karnataka government today and they say that the vast majority of the people occupying beds in Bangalore could go home if they had an oxygen concentrator at home. We can help procure the materials with industry & government hep if you can show this works. please contact me.

      2. What materials do you need. We need 1000 units in Bangalore. We can help procure materials with the help of industry and government. Spoke to a highly placed doctor who works for the government today. According to him a majority of patients occupying critical hospital beds could go home if they had an oxygen concentrator at home. Please get in touch with me at the earliest.

        1. Just read this. I drove down 600km yesterday from Mumbai to Goa to help get started on the kits. Can you message me directly through some channel – linkedin, twitter, Facebook, email – and I can let you know. We have a core sourcing group you can talk to.

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