Healthcare workers are some of the many heroes working bravely in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. To protect themselves and their patients, they must wear face masks during their entire shifts. This causes a great deal of ear irritation, so a strap was designed to make wearing the masks easier and alleviate pressure on the ears. Enthusiasts of 3D printing have begun printing these ear protectors and shipping to hospitals and other facilities to those who need them.
I first heard about this idea from Tim Radney (@tradney) from SQL Skills. It wasn’t long until Tim’s boss and owner of SQL Skills, Paul Randal (@PaulRandal), also joined in. Since I bought a printer last year for something educational and fun to do with my grandkids, I decided to begin printing them as well and have printed about 150 of the straps so far. (I have a new, faster printer arriving in a few days that will help me boost my production.) Quite a few others in the community are also printing the straps and other supplies.
I decided to spend some time chatting with Tim and Paul to learn more about how they got started.
Kathi: How did you hear about 3D printing the ear protectors?
Tim: I got started when a former co-worker tagged me in a post about a Boy Scout remixing the NIH mask strap to make it use less filament and print faster.
Paul: I was first told about it by my daughter, a HS senior, who read about another senior doing it. Then Tim told me about it later that day.
Kathi: What happened next?
Tim: I printed a few and posted on Facebook tagging a few friends and relatives in the healthcare industry asking if they could use these. That immediately sparked a huge interest, so I made another Facebook post making it public so others could share.
Paul: I started printing them immediately, and I happened to have ordered a second printer at the end of February anyway, so put that to use as soon as it arrived.
Kathi: What has the response been like?
Tim: Within a few days I had nearly 4k straps requested. I've since bought 3 additional printers to try to keep up with the demand. These are all free including shipping to any healthcare worker. I've had many offers to help by providing filament, stamps, and donations to purchase filament. The interest and need for these straps has NOT gone down.
Kathi: Any advice for people in the SQL Server community who would like to do this?
Paul: If you're printing in PLA, that can't be sterilized (that's what I'm using). If you're printing in PETG, that can be sterilized in an autoclave (that's what Tim is printing). And don't be fooled into buying the cheapest possible printer, as you'll end up having a bunch of problems with it. In the US, you can ship about 100 of the straps in a USPS flat rate shipping box for about $8. It's also a good project as a distraction from work and the news.
Tim: I have a blog post that can tell you everything you need to know!
Thanks to Tim and Paul for sharing their stories. I'm so proud of the SQL Server community for stepping up and using their talents to help make the world a better place!