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High-tech tool tapped in COVID-19 fight

Libraries discover 3D printers have role to play in providing PPE for hospital workers

Series: Flattening the curve | Story 4

Last updated 4/8/2020 at 4:04pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Hinsdale Public Library custodian Hugh Pedrigi and young adult services manager Ridgeway Burns show off the face shield components created by the library's 3D printer, which will be used by AMITA Health medical staff in their protective equipment for treating COVID-19 patients. "It's great to be able to help," Burns said. (Jim Slonoff photos)

To help outfit local health care workers with the personal protective equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients, the Hinsdale Public Library and community school media resource centers have teamed up in a special dimension.

In response to a request from AMITA Hinsdale Hospital, the library and schools this week began using their 3D printers to produce band components for the face shields being worn by frontline workers.

Ridgeway Burns, the library's youth and young adult services manager, has been overseeing the project.

"We saw that there was a way to 3D print these," he said. "It's freeing up resources so (the health care officials) can concentrate on something else, and it's part of our mission to the community to help make sure that citizens are up and moving."

Burns reached out to District 181 schools that he knew had 3D printers and enlisted their support. In addition, resident Patrick Lavelle is making them on his personal printer.

After fine-tuning the process with a couple of prototypes, the combined effort is expected to produce 48 bands a day, with the printers operating 24 hours a day.

Colleen Malone, the MRC director at Oak School, said she and her colleagues had seen stories of such initiatives in other communities. They reached out to their principals and, subsequently, Superintendent Hector Garcia about contributing to the cause.

"In the meantime, the Hinsdale Public Library contacted us asking to partner with them on this local printing effort. Dr. Garcia gave us the approval to move forward with it, and now we are using all of the D181 elementary school printers to make the shield components," Malone said. "Usually, we use our printers for school projects and for the good of our schools. Now we are printing for the good of our community, and it's something that all D181 students and staff can feel good about."

Garcia echoed that sentiment.

"This is the perfect example of what community partnership looks like. I'm grateful to our staff for their creative collaboration on this project, and it's a pleasure to lead a district that puts an emphasis on helping our community in this time of need," he said. "Our local health care providers are sacrificing their health and well-being for us on a daily basis. Anything we can do within our power to give back to them we are happy to do."

Bonny Chen, vice president/chief health information officer for Amita Health, said she and her husband, Hinsdale attorney Jim Olguin, were seeking ways to help support the doctors and nurses.

"Obviously it's terribly important for the staff to be safe when they're taking care of patients every single day," Chen said. "We want to protect them as much as we can."

They found the template for the 3D printable face shield bands through a colleague in the Czech Republic.

"University of Michigan has also approved the design," Olguin remarked.

Chen approached the library with the idea and has been moved with the various expressions of support from the community.

"It's been really heartening, whether through lighting candles or sending food to the hospital, it's really been quite amazing," she said.

Burns said the bands are created with filament material. He said the library is well stocked for a long run.

"We should have plenty of material to be able to make as many as possible," he said. "We'll keep making them until the hospital doesn't have a need for anymore of this equipment."

Being able to leverage a device originally acquired for patron use is rewarding, Burns remarked.

"It feels really good to be able to help," he said, adding that a conference call with other libraries in the region was scheduled for Wednesday, after The Hinsdalean went to press, to gauge their interest in and capacity for contributing. "It's great to be able to organize those efforts so we can get (medical staff) as much of that PPE equipment that they need."

Malone said taking part in the coronavirus fight feels like a civic responsibility.

"The pandemic affects all of us, and everything that each of us does to help fight it is valuable," she said. "This project is a great way to bring what we teach in the iLab to life for our students. It is a real-life example of critical thinking, problem solving and using our tools to meet the needs of others.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext 103


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