Library Staff Use 3D Printers to Supply PPE to Health Care Workers

Small Acts of Kindness: Library Staff Use 3D Printers to Supply PPE to Health Care Workers

People drawn to work in the library field usually have three things in common: a thirst for knowledge, a love for the community they serve, resourcefulness, especially in tough times, and an annoyingly strong attention to detail. So, when news broke that health care workers were experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) while working to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, San José Public Library staff used 3D printers and regular office supplies to create face shields and masks for our front line workers.

Eager to help with the PPE crisis, library staff transported 24 idle printers from library branches, which have been closed since Tuesday, March 17, to staff homes. Additionally, two teen volunteers are providing their technical expertise and a personal 3D printer to participate in the project.

Library staff worked with local hospitals to ensure the design is suitable for the medical environment, and settled on a Prusa Face Shield and the Montana Mask, both designed with health care workers in mind and available through open source on their website.

The face shield design takes an hour and a half to print, and the shield is created from transparency sheets – those used in overhead projection -- with a simple hole-punch that connects the front of the shield to the 3D printed headband. Staff can print an estimated 200 shields per week. Fully assembled, the unit costs an estimated 49 cents per face shield.

Similarly, the mask takes three hours to print and can be reused after replacing the filter. Looking at various reports on what material filters best, we settled on using shop towels, which are readily available online or at a home improvement store. We produce 80 masks per week at a cost of $1.50 per unit.

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose will receive the first round of donations, including 220 face shields, 75 face masks, and a huge thank you for their unwavering service to the community.

Written by Branch Manager, Shauna Porteus