Given that masks weren’t meant to be worn all day, one company, Glowforge, is trying to make it more comfortable for the frontline workers who are fighting COVID-19.
The Seattle-based 3D laser printer company is mobilizing tens of thousands of Glowforge owners across the country, to make Ear Savers.
An Ear Saver is a small, easy-to-print adapter that improves the fit of surgical and N95 masks, and makes them more comfortable for long-term wear. The hooks let the wearer use a mask of almost any size. They also remove pressure from the ears of the wearer, which can cause discomfort and eventually damage.
The Ear Save is fast to print using inexpensive materials, doesn’t require certification for use, and can be effectively sanitized between uses.
Starting April 13, doctors and nurses, cleaners and grocery staff, transit and delivery workers, first responders and all other essential workers can get free Ear Savers by visiting glowforge.com.
“Three weeks ago, I went to my garage planning to print personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to our local medical professionals," said Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge Shapiro. " But I couldn’t figure out which design to print, or who would accept the donation if I did, The more I learned about homemade PPE, the more clear it was that there wasn’t an easy way for people to help. So I did what I always do when I’m confused: I called a bunch of people who are way smarter than me.”
So Shapiro worked with biomedical engineers, doctors, and infectious disease experts to design the Ear Saver specifically for the widespread use and distributed at-home printing.
Glowforge is converting part of its factory production line to print free Ear Savers. To get help to our front lines as fast as possible, Glowforge is also creating a network to match individual Glowforge owners with the people and organizations in their own community who need their help. Each Glowforge 3D Laser Printer has the capacity to print more than a thousand Ear Savers each day, and there are tens of thousands in homes around the world.
Glowforge owners can sign up to print Ear Savers at Glowforge.com, where they’ll be connected with nearby people and organizations in need. Owners of other lasers can download the free file from Glowforge.com and sign up to match, too.
Glowforge owners are already hard at work using their creative tools to help essential workers, like Heather Motschenbacher, owner of Mrs. Mots’ Print Shop. “My business has had to shut our shop down since we’re a non-essential business [in the wake of COVID-19]. The upside? Being at home with the [Glowforge] all day has enabled us to help our first responders and medical personnel in a big way! So far, we’ve cut thousands [of Ear Savers], distributed locally and shipped to more than 23 states.”
Motschenbacher isn’t alone. Glowforge customers in more than 30 countries have been using their machines to print supplies for institutions like Kaiser Permanente in CA, community hospitals like Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital in GA, and first responders including those at the East St. Louis Fire Department in IL, as well as in support of coordinated statewide responses such as the Nevada COVID Task Force.
Glowforge 3D laser printers are also being used for biomedical device design teams responding to the critical global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has used Glowforge printers to create a clinician-validated face shield design. This initiative is already fabricating hundreds of thousands of face shields per day.