The ears of Burnaby Hospital staff serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are a little more comfortable thanks to a 16-year-old Burnaby North Secondary student.
Aaron Lu has been running his 3D printer around to clock since Monday to produce little plastic parts that help medical masks fit better.
The gadget is about 16 centimetres long, with four teeth on each end to hook the mask straps to.
During long shifts, straps that are too tight dig into the backs of health-care workers’ ears, Lu said.
“All the nurses right now are working overtime, and the masks are very painful because they can’t not wear them,” he said.
The idea of printing the “ear savers” had been on Lu’s radar since before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic.
Usually the aspiring mechanical engineer uses his 3D printer to make parts for his race drones or electric longboards, but in early March he had heard of a registered nurse in Washington State who had called on 3D printer enthusiasts to produce the ear savers.
When he printed one up and posted about it on social media recently, he got a “massive response,” he said.
Since tuning his printer Monday, he’s been printing four ear savers every two hours.
A friend of his family, who is a nurse at Burnaby Hospital, has been supplying some of her colleagues there with the gadget.
“It makes me feel good because I’m using the technology that I have to help others in times of need,” Lu said. “These are the people that are risking their lives on the front line to save someone else’s life, and that’s just unbelievably courageous to me.”
But Lu said he can only print a limited number of the parts on his own, so he’s encouraging other 3D printer enthusiasts to take up the cause.
“It doesn’t cost a lot for the amount of joy it brings these frontline workers,” he said.
For more information about using your 3D printer to help, visit tinyurl.com/3DprinterCOVID.