Library uses 3D printer to create protective gear for healthcare workers

The Central City Public Library is using a 3D printer to create ear guards for healthcare...
The Central City Public Library is using a 3D printer to create ear guards for healthcare workers. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)(KSNB)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT
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The Central City Public Library has turned their future Makerspace into a production line to create protective gear for healthcare workers.

Before the pandemic hit, the library was getting ready to set up their new Makerspace. They received a 3D printer about three weeks before the library had to shut down.

Jamie Wright, library assistant, said they still wanted to put the gadget to use. For their first project, they printed 23 sets of face shields. Once that need was met, they moved on to surgical strap mask extenders, or ear guards.

"I had a friend send me this and say, "hey. When you guys are done with the face shields, would this be something you could print?" Wright said.

Instead of the mask strings hooking behind the ears, they can be attached to the extender. It helps reduce the pain a lot of healthcare workers are experiencing from wearing the masks.

McKinsie Orr, a CNA at Bryan Health Merrick Medical Center, received one of the library's 3D-printed ear guards.

Orr started working at Merrick Medical Center just three weeks ago. She said within about two days, she had to wear a mask constantly.

Since employees have to wear the mask for 12 hours a day, multiple days in a row, Orr said it starts to hurt her ears and the side of her face.

But Orr said the extenders help relieve some of that pain.

"It means a lot, because we are a smaller town. We're not like a city where we're able to have more resources," Orr said. It means a lot to me and everyone here."

The library started printing the extenders off last week.

Wright uploaded a file into a computer program, where she can multiply and position the shape to how they want it to print.

It takes about two hours to print eight of the extenders. Wright said they still have 175 more to go.

"I think that's something all of us who aren't in the medical field didn't really think about, like how much actually wearing a mask every day might physically hurt your ears. If something like that just gives them a little bit of comfort in something that I'm sure is a super stressful time for them, then we are fortune and very glad to be able to help," Wright said.

The library is giving the ear guards to several care facilities in the area. Wright said so long as they have the supplies, they're happy to print more or look at new supplies to print.