April 13, 2020.  Oxford, OH.  Last week Oxford Rotarian Ralph Gutowski’s daughter-in-law Angie, a Nurse Practitioner, reached out to him about a problem she was having wearing a surgical face mask all day long.  The elastic bands that loop behind the ears begin to rub the skin raw and it becomes very uncomfortable as the day progresses.  She encountered a colleague who was wearing a plastic strap across the back of her head that held the elastic off the ears (see picture).  The strap was printed on a 3D printer. So Angie reached out to Ralph to see if he could print one for her on his 3D printer. 

Ralph found a file on the internet containing a design that would work on his 3D printer.  He downloaded a file and printed off a dozen of these surgical mask straps, which have NIH approval.  After meeting Angie’s and his sons’ needs, he turned to Pam Collins, Chief Patient Services Officer at McCullough-Hyde Hospital to see if they could use them. Pam replied enthusiastically, “We sure could!”  To maximize production, Ralph tweaked the original file in Meshmixer and duplicated the design to now print four straps at a time.  So his 3D printer ran all weekend and on Monday morning it was “Rotary to the Rescue.” Ralph delivered 75 of these ear-saving surgical mask straps to Pam Collins at McCullough-Hyde.
Ralph’s son, Jeff, reached out to colleagues and faculty in Miami’s College of Engineering who have 3D printers to get involved with supplying the hospital.  Ralph uploaded the “build files” to “the cloud” so others can download them and help meet the demand, and now Miami Engineering faculty are contributing, too.   If you, or anyone you know, has a 3D printer and would like to join the project, please contact Ralph (rgutowski@woh.rr.com).
For readers with a thirst for the technical details: The straps are printed using a filament of biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) made from corn, extruded at a temperature of 220 deg. C (428 deg F).  Each strap requires 1.5 meters of filament and it takes 1 hour 15 minutes to print them four at a time (on Ralph’s hobby printer).