Belkin collaborates with Illinois to produce FlexVent ventilators in response to COVID-19


Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Illinois researchers with FlexVent ventilators

On May 12, global consumer electronics leader Belkin International announced its collaboration with the Grainger College of Engineering to produce emergency gas-powered ventilators called the FlexVent in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FlexVent is based on Illinois' RapidVent design, a prototype emergency ventilator, published in March 2020.

In light of the high demand for critical respiratory care supplies worldwide, Belkin and the Grainger College of Engineering will be producing at least 10,000 sub-$200 ventilator units according to an article from USA Today. The FlexVent will be able to provide constant-flower, pressure-cycled ventilation especially for patients in emergency situations or less severe cases of COVID-19. Standard full-featured ventilator units can cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

Based in Los Angeles, Belkin produces phone charging cables and routers under the brand Linksys, the Wemo products for smart homes and wireless chargers. 

“This is one of the most urgent humanitarian crises we have experienced in our lifetimes and the number one responsibility for each of us in this moment is the care and compassion for others in need,” said Chet Pipkin, CEO and founder of Belkin, in a press release from Belkin.

"It was obvious there's a critical need for ventilators and not just for the short term," said Pipkin. "We have no excuse not to get prepared."

Belkin recently obtained a license to the Illinois RapidVent design from the University of Illinois and consulted with Carle Health and team members from the University of Illinois who offered invaluable feedback on the product design, manufacturability, training for physicians, and potential clinical scenarios for the FlexVent.

“The University of Illinois and its partners developed an emergency ventilator concept as we saw the need for these devices grow exponentially,” said William King, a professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering in The Grainger College of Engineering who led the project. “We were driven by the desire to help the world and make a meaningful impact on the COVID crisis, and we’re proud to work with Belkin to have that impact.” 

“In healthcare we must do everything we can to meet our patients needs now and in the future.  That’s never been more true than it is right now,” said Charles Dennis, MD, Carle Health Chief Medical Officer. “When we looked at what was necessary not only for our health system, but for hospitals throughout the U.S., we knew we needed to seek out innovative options. Pairing physicians and engineers made this emergency ventilator a possibility.”

Read more from USA Today and Belkin's press release