Carroll County Public Library is operating all of its 3D printers to fabricate parts for face shields that will protect medical workers in the coronavirus fight
Carroll County Public Library branches are closed, but their 3D printers are hard at work creating protective equipment for medical personnel.
The library system has seven 3D printers, typically one at each branch. All seven are now located at library headquarters in New Windsor, where they have been put to work printing parts that will be assembled into face shields for medical professionals.
They are organized under an operation run through Open Works, a nonprofit makerspace in Baltimore. The group reached out to hospitals to find out what personal protective equipment (PPE) they could contribute. They are now receiving 3D printed pieces from all over to assemble, sanitize and distribute.
CCPL’s printers start at around 5 a.m. when Bob Kuntz, director of Operations and Innovation, comes in to get them running. It takes about 2.5 hours to print the more complicated top band, and they can print the bottom reinforcement piece four at a time.
The printers can’t make the clear plastic sheeting or the elastic band that goes on the back of the face mask, and there is worry the plastic sheeting is becoming hard to source.
Emerging and Digital Technologies Manager Jen Bishop said that CCPL is proud to be part of a unified nationwide effort.
“I think the thing that’s really cool is how the maker community could really rapidly prototype and stand up to fill in until mass manufacture could happen," she said.
The CCPL farm has been running since March 31 and is able to print the parts to make up about 18 shields per day.
They plan to make a weekly shipment of parts to Open Works — which produces about 500 shields per day. The pattern all of the unified makers use was created by the Czech company Prusa Research, which manufactures 3D printers and filament.
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“We send those out and then we’re just printing until they tell us to stop,” Bishop said.
Before the outbreak of the coronavirus, Bishop and Kuntz were focused on Exploration Commons, the upcoming renovation of the bottom floor of the Westminster Branch of the Carroll County Public Library into a makerspace, meeting space and test kitchen of about 3,000 square feet.
It has been in planning for years and is currently out to bid. The library expects the construction to finish around July of 2021.
Bishop said the goal is to take what has been happening in small doses at individual libraries and scale it with more space, more equipment and the ability to do larger-scale projects.
“Really the the main goal is to try to get people to make their own designs and support that and then we’re really just a tool for them to to make something,” she said. “But you know, that’s a learning curve. So how do we get people interested and comfortable with doing basic 3D design?