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Employing FVS Library’s 3D Printer to Help Protect Medical Workers

What do you do with a 3D printer sitting idly in Hawley Library’s makerspace because students are off-campus and learning virtually?

Put the School’s core value of compassion into action and produce equipment designed to ease the pain of healthcare workers who are on the frontlines taking care of patients in the midst of a pandemic.

Toni Olivieri-Barton and Sarah Bogard who are headquartered in the library—respectively FVS’s Director of Tech and Global Integration, and Library and Technology Assistant—are 3D printing hundreds of ear-protective straps and sending them to hospitals around the country.

The backs of the ears of medical workers are being rubbed raw by the face masks that they must wear on long shifts as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE). The masks are typically secured by putting the elastic loops over one’s ears.

The innovative plastic strap that FVS is printing sits on the back of the head and allows the wearer to secure the face mask elastic onto the strap’s notches instead of one’s ears. The strap is actually the brainchild of a 12-year-old Boy Scout who answered the call from his local hospital for someone in his community to develop a solution to the ear pain problem. He not only designed the strap, he made the pattern accessible online for anyone to 3D print them.

“The good news is, we have already produced and sent more than 150 ear-protective straps to nurses and their hospitals in Denver, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Washington and North Carolina,” says Olivieri-Barton.

FVS makerspace-produced ear protective straps in use at Rocky Mountain Children's Hospital

The 3D printer is running 24/7 in the library. According to Bogard, there is capacity to print 30-45 straps a day. “It takes about five hours to print ten of them,” she says. “And they cost about 13 cents each.

FVS’s makerspace 3D printer producing the ear-protector straps

Several members of the Fountain Valley community had been reaching out to Olivieri-Barton and Bogard asking them what the School could do with our 3D printer to help the cause. “The community helped push us into action,” says Olivieri-Barton. Bogard found the pattern and printed samples. “We had the prototype but couldn’t move forward until we were able to find organizations that wanted them,” Olivieri-Barton says. They spread out a wide net and are receiving more and more requests for the straps. If you or someone you know could use the ear-protector straps, please contact Toni Olivieri-Barton at tolivieri-barton@fvs.edu

Colorado College Collaboration

Olivieri-Barton is also working with Colorado College on another potential piece of protective gear, a 3D-printed face shield. Awaiting approval of CC’s design from the Pike’s Peak Office of Emergency Management, FVS will partner with the college in printing the visor part of the face shield.
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