When a group of residents came together back in March to form the Creston COVID Support group, 3D printer hobbyist Richard Murray decided to volunteer his services to help keep the community safe.
“When COVID hit, I couldn’t do much else. But when I heard about this group, it was a way to help out,” said Murray, who is one of seven administrators for the group.
Since then, Murray has been using his two 3D printers to create ear savers — a plastic gadget you hook your face mask onto and wrap around your head — and face shields for Creston residents.
“3D printing is my hobby. When the demand was there for PPE, I looked at what was online,” said Murray, a 3D printing enthusiast of more than five years.
As the pandemic began to unfold, Prusa3D, the Czech-based manufacturer of Murray’s printers, provided files on their website for people to download and produce face shields from their homes.
As of December, Murray has distributed 100 face shields and more than 900 ear savers across the community, free of charge.
The group has recently launched a campaign to deliver bins full of ear savers to local businesses in town, which includes Home Hardware, Pealow’s, Save-on-Foods, Shoppers Drugmart and Pharmasave. Murray said that these ear savers are free for the public to pick up.
“The first time I delivered a package of ear savers to Pealow’s … people applauded me,” he said.
The devices have also found their way to the hospital and senior centres. The majority of face shield requests have been from individuals who are unable to wear facemasks.
Earlier in the year, the group received a $2,500 grant from the Creston-Kootenay Foundation to help purchase a third 3D printer for this specific task. Once the pandemic is over, it will be donated to the Creston Valley Public Library.
The grant money has also helped cover the costs of the 3D printing filament, as well as elastics and transparent sheets for the face shields.
It takes about four hours for a face shield to print, while three ear savers can be printed in an hour. They’re made from starch-based plastic that decomposes, while the face shields are made of PETG plastic material.
“Since everybody in the world has been printing these, when COVID really became big, it was very difficult to get any PETG,” he said. “The demand around the world was very high. Everybody was looking for toilet paper, I was looking for filament.”
The printing is a 24/7 commitment.
“With face shields being a four-hour print, I start a print and go to bed. In the middle of the night, I go to the washroom, come in here and fire up another print,” said Murray.
Anyone interested in receiving a face shield or an ear saver can contact the group by calling 250-428-8651, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find the group on Facebook by searching Creston COVID Support.
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