Two staff members of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library are toiling at home, using the library’s 3D printers to make face shields for local health care workers.
Library manager Laura Tait had never actually used the 3D printer, although she had watched kids learning the technology in the Makery room, when she was approached by a group of engineering and medical students from McMaster University and the University of Toronto asking for assistance with a design that had been successfully produced at Queen’s University. The students are hoping to produce 10,000 shields, and had emailed several libraries, but got little response, says Tait.
She and Matt Furlong, the library’s IT coordinator, each took home one of the 3D printers, and set to work.
Tait also emailed NOTL resident Rene Bertschi, who has two printers, newer and more efficient than the equipment Tait and Furlong are using, and he agreed to help. “He attended one of the 3D Makery sessions at the library, and liked what it could do,” she says. He quickly produced a batch of 100 shields, which went to Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.
The design has since been modified as requested by a local doctor, and now they’re hoping to produce 2,000 by the end of the month to go to Niagara hospitals.
With his newer equipment, Bertschi can print about four in an hour, while Tait says it took her a week to make 20. The equipment breaks down often, and although she’s becoming adept at repairs, thanks to YouTube, it slows the process.
Once they get going, she and Furlong should be able to make about 130 a week each, she says, “and between the two of us, hopefully we can match Rene.”
The library has a good supply of the filament used to make the shield, but if necessary, the students have let her know they can supply more material if needed, says Tait.
On Easter morning, she picked up shields from Furlong and Bertschi, and delivered 240 to a St. Catharines student involved in the project.
“I feel privileged we are able to help in some small way. In a situation like this, you feel pretty helpless. It feels pretty good to be able to do something.”
Tait says she has had a “love-hate” relationship with the 3D printers, having watched kids come in to print little Pokeman figures, but not getting involved herself. “Then something like this comes along, and you realize how amazing it can be.”
She has also taken it upon herself to contact other Niagara libraries with 3D printers to get them involved, and some have offered to help, she says.
“If I can do it, anybody can.”