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Madison Public Library produces face shields with 3D printing

MADISON – To relieve the urgent need facing health care workers, Madison Public Library used 21st-century technology to produce face shields needed to examine patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The purpose of the public library is to identify needs in the community and work to help meet those needs. I see this project as an extension of that purpose,” Nora Bahr said. Bahr works as Makerspace Librarian for Madison Public Library.

“When the call went out for 3D printers in the area, the library was able to go to action immediately. We already had the equipment and expertise … we’re just applying them in an innovative way,” Bahr said.

Printing at the Madison library ran non-stop from March 28 through April 15. “In that time, we produced 90 face shields. This includes the headband portion of the shield and the bottom support. The clear plastic and elastic (and a few extra bottom supports) were provided by the organizers of the project,” Bahr said.

“I was excited to partner with Smarter Every Day on this project. They had a clean plan for mobilizing people with 3D printers across Huntsville and distributing the completed headbands to area hospitals,” Bahr said. “On our first delivery day, I was told we were in the top 10 percent of makers!”

Setup for making the shields was a challenge, but, once printing was up and running, the process was easy. Bahr received approval to take the 3D printers from the library to her home and avoid continually going to the empty library.

Bahr and her husband set up a 3D printing station on their kitchen table. She had the 3D file that the hospital approved and required for printing. “I had to find a combination of settings that would print quickly but still have the strength to do its job,” Bahr said.

Luckily, she found a balance after a few test runs. “I used a copy of the file that would allow me to print a pile of four headbands at a time and then cut them apart when they finished printing. These would take a little over eight hours to print so I started them before bed and took them off the printer when I woke up in the morning. We were truly printing around the clock,” Bahr said.

Bahr also had to inspect each headband as it came off the printer, clean up or sand any loose plastic and support materials, and disinfect the headbands in a bleach solution before delivery.

Currently, she is not printing face shields. On April 13, she was notified that the organization had met the need for face shields in North Alabama and we could stop printing for now. “I delivered the remainder of the shields I’d printed. The printers are sitting quiet for the moment, and it’s nice to have a little silence. They are not loud, but it was strange having them running in the background 24/7,” Bahr said.

If the need arises, Bahr and library employees can resume printing at any time.

“We are very lucky to have such a high tech and innovative library in Madison and our community to back us. I hope we can continue to serve that community in any way possible, both during these trying times and in the future,” Bahr said.

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