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It Takes A Village: A Library’s 3D Vision

April 10, 2020
Published in: COVID-19

close-up of the Prusa i3 3D printer head

It takes a village to battle a pandemic. Every day, healthcare workers use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves, patients and others while providing care. Properly using PPE helps prevent the spread of infection.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased demand for PPE. This demand has diminished the supply, and the PPE shortages are creating tremendous challenges for hospitals and healthcare systems around the world. For Augusta Health, facing this challenge has been eased by the community that surrounds it.

The Augusta Health Foundation is coordinating the donations of supplies, food and financial support from the community.

"Augusta Health is incredibly grateful for the overwhelming response of our community to help our healthcare workers and our patients with donations of all kinds, but particularly those donations of Personal Protective Equipment. Our community's manufacturers, retailers and schools have been very generous in providing us with these needed supplies," says Tami Radecke, Executive Director of Augusta Health Foundation. "It's truly a reflection of a remarkable community."

And along with support from local businesses and school, some more unusual and creative partnerships and collaborations to produce PPE for Augusta Health have developed: two distilleries, a library, and a legion of home sewers. A 3D focus on the library:

When you can’t buy a face shield, it turns out your local library can print them for you.

Face mask delivery and example of a nurse wearingThe main branch of the Augusta County Library is just down the road from Augusta Health. The Library has a 3D printer that is used by its patrons to print a variety of objects from boat parts to miniature Eiffel Towers. Currently, systems technician Matt Frenger is using it—almost around the clock—to print face shields for the staff at Augusta Health.

"I saw a post by Josef Prusa, who developed our brand of 3D printer about making face shields," says Frenger. "Then I found a higher quality version with a modified piece over the forehead that allows for better airflow. So we printed a couple of samples, and (colleague) Ali McCue connected with Augusta Health. We're now in the process of making 400 face shields for the hospital."

It's quite a process. The 3D printer can print two face shields at the same time, but it's a two hour process. Frenger is running the printer about 16 hours a day and expects he'll need about 300 hours of total print time. The Library is considering bringing in a second 3D printer to be able to complete the task sooner.

"We were aware of the PPE shortage, and this just seemed like a good way to contribute to the community," says Frenger. "We're trying to do as much as we can, and this is a creative way to handle the shortages."

So in an unprecedented time and facing an unpredictable disease and while keeping an appropriate social distance, an entire village—a community of support—has risen to help each other through it.

We stand together, even when we are apart.

If you are interested in joining the village, please visit our Community Support page.