XENIA — Justin Bir is seeing to it that medical professionals, needing to wear face masks more than normal, have happy ears.
It all started with one request for comfort bands for face mask straps, and it quickly grew from there once word got out. Bir uses his engineering background and his 3D printers at home to produce the tension-relief bands which ensure the elastic straps on surgical/N95 masks do not girdle tightly around the ears.
The Xenia resident also makes face shields and cloth sewn masks.
The products are going to workers in hospitals, nursing facilities and emergency responders at no cost.
It seems like everybody wants the comfort bands, with shipments often going to the employees in an entire department or floor, Bir said.
“I am using existing NIH [National Institutes of Health] approved 3D models that I have downloaded. I then use a piece of software known as a ‘slicer’ to prepare them for printing. I will then produce the product using my printers,” he explained.
He’s using readily available standard plastics, mostly the bio-plastic PLA.
“I have been tinkering with 3D printing in some capacity over the past 10 years,” he said. He was introduced to 3D printing a decade ago on the job, when the printer was the size of a refrigerator with a matching, refrigerator-size $80,000 price tag.
His father has a background in procurement and has been helping in sourcing materials for the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) project. Justin’s background is engineering and production, so he runs the day-to-day operations.
“I feel like I have a duty to do this. I have a skill set that is useful and I have a way to provide these items to those that need them the most,” he said.
By the end of this week, he expects to have shipped over 1,000 items. They have been received in medical settings in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona and Texas.
In the first three weeks, he used about 20 spools of material which is about 45 pounds of plastic.
“I will continue to support this as long as it is needed and as long as I can still get materials,” Bir said.
In the meantime, he’s keeping the home printers going.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.