Okotoks teenager prints dozens of face masks for healthcare workers amid COVID-19 epidemic

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When his family bought a 3D printer for Christmas two years ago, a 13-year-old boy in Okotoks, Alberta never thought he would use it to help fight a global pandemic.

But that’s exactly how Owen Plumb used his passion for 3D printing from his home in Okotoks, about 12 miles south of Calgary.

The Grade 9 student assembled dozens of plastic visors to protect local health workers, with help from his parents, Kevin and Nadia Plumb, and his younger sister, Abigail, 11.

“It’s really great to wake up every morning and see an impression just end overnight and be able to start another and know that I’m really doing something to help instead of just staying at home .

He is not the only one using 3D printing to try to help healthcare workers facing a shortage of personal protective equipment or PPE these days, but he could be among the youngest.

It follows a design published by Prusa, the company that made their printer. The company did this to encourage the public to produce and distribute protective equipment to healthcare workers around the world.

Although health officials have yet to approve the use of 3D-printed face shields like these for frontline healthcare workers, Prusa has worked to demonstrate that they are safe, effective and respond to mandatory regulatory standards in Canada. Meanwhile, the Plumbs and others who manufacture them store them in the hope that they will soon be approved.

It’s really great to wake up every morning… knowing I’m doing something to help instead of staying at home.– Owen Plumb, 13 years old.

After printing each face shield, Plumb says it takes about two minutes to assemble them.

The shields are made with a 3D printed frame and headband and a visor cut from a transparent plastic sheet.

They are designed to protect from droplets spread by coughing or sneezing and are suitable for most head sizes.

So far, he has printed 106 and assembled more than 75.

Plumb says he is motivated in part because his grandmother works in health care and his mother suffers from chronic lung disease.

Her mother Nadia Plumb said it was amazing enough to see what her son had accomplished, but as a mechanical engineer herself, she is fascinated by technology and proud of her son.

“It would be very difficult for my son or any other 13 year old to be told to stay home and do your learning and try not to read the news too much, it’s just impossible. At least that way, he has something concrete that he can do that that helps and helps the people we know. ”

Owen Plumb manufactures face shields using his family’s 3D printer at their home in Okotoks, Alberta. (Submitted by Nadia Plumb)

Her parents started a Facebook group called Face Shields for Foothills, AB. It currently has over 200 members.

The Okotoks Rotary Club donated money for materials and offered to help the Plumbs deliver the shield to healthcare workers in the Okotoks area.

Each shield uses 40 grams of plastic filament.

The Plumbs have heard from other groups who also use the Prusa design on their 3D printers – some in and around Okotoks and others based in Calgary, such as Shield Makers YYC, also on Facebook.

” Habitually [the printers are] used for prototyping or making small widgets or figurines, but now it can be applied to something really useful and useful and local, “said Nadia Plumb.

However, among all the people who decided to print PPE, there may not be as many 13-year-olds who do.

Owen Plumb poses next to the face shields he made to help healthcare workers fight COVID-19. (Submitted by Nadia Plumb)

“There are so many different ways to help… from sending care packages to nursing homes to making face masks, there are a lot of things you can do to help others than just self isolation – which is always one of the best things you can do – we can do more as a community to help young people, “said Owen Plumb.

Plumb said he will definitely put this on a resume in the future, but experience has also taught him a valuable life lesson.

“It will be something I will always remember. It really taught me what a community can do when we come together to fight a crisis. “

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