Library Staff, 3D Printers Make Protective Gear for Health Workers

When our libraries were open, our 3D printers created toys, tools and other household items daily. Now, our 3D printers are busy churning out a vital community service.

The growth of COVID-19 created a high demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), with many hospitals across the nations seeking donations. Many people have answered the call, including tinkers, makers and library staff with 3D printing equipment!

With a commitment to our communities and desire to help, our library staff began using our 17 3D printers this week to create face shields and ear savers to protect front line medical staff. We’ve already printed more than 300 ear savers and hope to print and deliver over 600 face shields in the coming weeks.

“San Mateo County Libraries has a very popular 3D printer program at our libraries, but with the branches closed we wanted to find a creative way to put our machines to good use and to help make a difference,” said Anne-Marie Despain, Director of Library Services.

When wearing them all day, many masks put pressure and rub uncomfortably against nurses and doctors’ ears. These ear savers are adjustable, make the masks more comfortable, and can be created in as little as 10 minutes. The design was created and shared online by a 12-year-old Boy Scout in Canada, opens a new window – anyone can be a maker and help their community!

To create the face shield, we 3D print a plastic headband that holds a clear plastic shield in front of the wearer’s face. The face shield adds a secondary protective layer to help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching the wearer’s eyes or mouth. The design is based on an open-source online design file and each shield takes about 40 minutes to create.

We’re working closely with the County’s Health Department and Emergency Operations Center to plan and deliver the gear. Additionally, we reached out to our friends in City libraries to join the project. So far, six other library systems have teamed with us and are working to print from the same design files.

Even though our physical doors are closed, we’re still here for you – whether it’s 3D printing face shields, hosting online storytimes, our promoting free, digital resources and titles.