Back in March, when officials at the University of Missouri-St. Louis sent out a universitywide call for anyone on campus with 3D printers to try to print face masks, Glen Anderson wanted to help. An associate professor of three-dimensional design, he hoped his academic department's three 3D printers might work well.
After more research, Anderson found that printing masks with these particular machines just wasn’t feasible. But he wasn’t finished brainstorming. He thought there had to be a way to contribute, and soon enough he happened on an idea for a useful product that he is now manufacturing — and donating — by the thousands: surgical mask ear savers.
Fashioned from polylactic acid that Anderson is supplying himself, the plastic devices can be attached to masks that otherwise loop around the ears, moving the pressure away from the ears and distributing it around the back of the head.
He’s donated more than 2,500 to critical workers near and far. And based on the many thank-you notes Anderson’s been receiving, the ear savers seem to be well received by first responders and others working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Anderson has also made his designs freely available through his Thingiverse profile. So far, they’ve been downloaded more than 300 times.
These days, the 3D printers are frequently buzzing away inside Anderson’s home, which he shares with twin toddlers and his wife, a respiratory therapist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Anderson joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss his grassroots operation.
When Fenske asked Anderson if he’s been tempted to try to make money from his work, he indicated it’s not about that from his perspective.
“I send my wife out to a hospital every day,” he said. “You know, she’s doing something. And I feel like I can do something for the effort, too.”
The conversation included comments from Rachel Sciranko, a neonatal pediatric specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and Nick Beck, the respiratory therapy manager at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.
Both said the ear savers have indeed made them and their colleagues more comfortable — and boosted morale.
Take a listen:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
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