Holland maker lends resources to help fight COVID-19

Editor's note: This column is part of a series by Lakeshore residents about their experiences living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have had an interest in 3D printing since its genesis and received a 3D printer as a gift three years ago. I am excited that I can now put those hours spent experimenting, designing, and creating to good use with a program that makes necessary personal protection equipment (PPE) for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pete Hoffswell made parts for face masks on his 3D printer.At the beginning of the crisis, I received an email from Charles Elwood. Charles and I have collaborated for several years through Lakeshore Makers, a local group focused on connecting our community with local technology and making resources.

Seeking makers

Charles was seeking makers with 3D printers to join together to make parts for face shields and ear savers. These products are critically important PPE for health care workers in hospitals, and retirement, and skilled nursing facilities.

Related: Volunteers launch 3D printer network to fill gap amid PPE shortage

Our well-established connection with a community of makers provided a natural conduit with which to get the word out. I immediately sent notes out to the group, seeking people to add to the expanding “fleet” of printers.

I then put my own 3D printer to work. Using supplied 3D models, I have printed hundreds of the face shield parts and ear savers. Since I am working from home, I can keep the printer running all day (and most of the night!) by starting a new print cycle as soon as one completes. There is nothing more satisfying than watching the stacks of equipment grow, knowing that I am helping
an important initiative to protect health care workers.

Sharing knowledge

An added bonus of this project is sharing my knowledge about 3D printing and helping others get started. After starting, I was approached by two friends who have been interested in 3D printing but never found the justification for purchasing a printer.

Pete Hoffswell made ear savers with his 3D printer.

They, too, were looking for a way to help in the fight against COVID-19, and 3D printing was a good fit for their skills and interests. They were able to purchase printers online, which arrived within days. With the stay-at-home order, they had extra time to learn how to set up and run these printers. I was able to help them with initial assembly and setup via video conference calls.

After they quickly mastered the basics, we worked together on operations and creating the PPE. My friend Mike involved his 16-year-old son, who was eager to participate and learn a new skill. All around, it was time well spent.

Joining the ‘fleet’

Together, our “flotilla” joined the fleet of printers from across the country that is fighting COVID-19 through the organization #3DC19. The group makes it easy to participate by organizing the makers, receiving completed parts, disinfecting, packaging, and distributing to organizations in need.

To date, #3DC19 has 440 printers that have generated more than 40,000 parts for 263 agencies located from New York to Hawaii. This past week, #3dc19 has joined forces with the Holland Rotary Club to respond to the need for cloth face masks.  There is a great demand for masks at this time, and the team is looking for all the help they can find. Interested? Learn more and join the effort by visiting the #3dc19 Sew Shop at https://3dc19.com/sew-shop/  

Pete Hoffswell is the superintendent of broadband services for the Holland Board of Public Works.

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs, and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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