Students and schools across Stark County have joined the effort to help health care workers and first responders protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus.
Blake Abbott and Brock Stropki, juniors at Central Catholic High School, have been creating mask extenders and face shield headbands using 3D printers and offering them for free to anyone who needs them.
The students said they wanted to help after seeing reports that health care workers were developing blisters behind their ears due to the elastic on their masks and that protective equipment continues to be in short supply.
“It’s our hobby so if we can print something as useful as these things are, we’re going to be right on it,” said Abbott, who began printing the extenders in early April. ”... It’s nice to know that I can do something from home and send it to people and it really helps them out.”
The mask extenders, also known as surgical mask tension release bands, act as adjustable clips worn at the back of the head. They hook onto the loops of a mask, allowing the workers to avoid placing straps around their ears. The face shields, typically a clear sheet that is attached to a headband, help protect against respiratory droplets.
Using designs they found online, they printed prototypes and then began production. Abbott said he’s refined the design for the extenders along the way, and has begun printing shorter extenders for those who want their masks tighter or have smaller heads. Stropki modified the original design for the face shields to include tabs on the side so they would have a tighter fit.
Since starting nearly three weeks ago, they have printed roughly 500 mask extenders and more than 40 face shields for Aultman Hospital employees, first responders and even service workers interacting with customers. Last week, Stropki, who lives in Green, delivered 40 face shields to the Green Fire Department.
Abbott, who got his 3D printer roughly four years, can print four extenders in roughly an hour, while Stropki, who has been 3D printing since 2016 and got a new printer a year ago, can print 10 in just over an hour. The students also are using one of Central’s 3D printers, which can produce eight extenders in an hour. Stropki said the face shields take longer to produce, with only two of the headbands being printed in roughly 40 minutes. It takes less than five minutes to attach the transparent shield to the headband, he said.