WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–As healthcare facilities look for personal protective equipment anywhere they can get it, creative people across the state have found ways to supply them with face shields, isolation gowns, and masks. Others have helped make protective equipment fit more comfortably and effectively by creating mask holders. Shaking Earth Digital joined their ranks, 3-D printing tension relief bands.
Jens Zalzala, co-founder of Shaking Earth Digital, joined the Iowa COVID Rapid Response Network. Though the group primarily focuses on making face shields, they also share information about creating other protective equipment.
Zalzala hoped to 3-D print face shields, but found his printer too small to accommodate them. From speaking with his friend Jaclyn Hall, an administrator at Saint Luke’s Transitional Care Center in Cedar Rapids who helped him create the Skilled Day nursing software, Zalzala learned that healthcare workers wanted mask tension relief bands. Surgical masks with elastic ear pieces can cause irritation when worn all day. As a result, many workers prefer to wear tension bands on the backs of their heads that holds their masks in place without hurting their ears.
Using plans from the National Institute of Health, Zalzala printed several test bands and gave them to Hall to try at her facility. They proved an instant success, so Zalzala began sharing that Shaking Earth Digital could provide them. Within 24 hours, Zalzala had requests for 100 bands. With the help of his friend Jackie Henderson, who also has a 3-D printer, he created enough to distribute to workers at Fred’s Feed and the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department, among others.
When the Staff of Simpson Memorial Home heard about the tension relief bands they requested 180 to accommodate their staff both in West Liberty and at the Wilton Retirement Community. Zalzala and Henderson filled the order quickly, to the delight of the staff. “They are awesome!” said Kevin Mueller of Simpson Memorial Home. “The nurses love them.”
As Zalzala worked on the order for Simpson Memorial Home, he adjusted the design of the tension relief bands so he could print four at once. By wearing his original band, he realized he could print shorter bands that still fit, saving him time and materials. Through generous donations, Zalzala purchased more of the PLA plastic used to make the bands and paid the postage for one of his friends in California to ship him an additional printer, increasing the number of bands he can make.
So far, Shaking Earth Digital has made over 300 tension relief bands and looks forward to making even more in the weeks ahead. Zalzala encourages anyone who would like a tension relief band free of charge to visit http://www.insidewestliberty.com/ppe and make a request.
As the demand for masks to slow the transmission of COVID-19 remains high, Zalzala feels good that his tension relief bands can help keep so many essential workers comfortable. “I know everyone is scrambling to do the best they can with the situation, and I’m happy that we have some way we can help.”