Advancements in 3-D printing technology have allowed for the generation of low-cost adaptive devices. The technology in rehabilitation course (OTS 825) recently completed a module exploring the use of 3-D printing to generate adaptive devices and solutions for a variety of client needs. Shortly after the courses were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I received a message from one of the students asking if it would be possible to use the 3-D printer to help frontline healthcare workers.
Amber Sears, OTS, sent a photo from social media of a device designed to extend straps of masks worn as PPE. A consequence of prolonged wear of such masks is skin breakdown behind the ears, where the straps are typically worn. In essence, the mask extender holds mask straps behind the head so they do not create the skin breakdown behind the ears and can increase the comfort of prolonged PPE wear. In order to produce the mask extenders, I searched open-source 3-D printer patterns and located an appropriate type. Using the 3-D printer donated to the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy by a faculty member, I began producing the mask extenders. Each extender required 12 minutes to produce, with constant monitoring/setup of the printer required. A total of 100 mask extenders were printed, encompassing a total of approximately 20 hours. Once the extenders were produced, they were provided to the student (while maintaining social distancing). She will be providing them to local healthcare workers in her area. This was a great idea for a relevant and timely service project to support our frontline healthcare heroes.
There is a wide variety of 3-D printers, as well as a plethora of online resources for anyone interested in learning more about this emerging technology. There are many implications for healthcare, occupational therapy, and client-centered care. Relatively low cost, the ability to customize items, and quick production time are just a few of the benefits of 3-D printing technology.
By: Allen Keener, OTD, MS, OTR/L, ATP, associate professor, EKU Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
https://www.thingiverse.com/ – Digital collection of object patterns for 3-D printing
https://3dprintingindustry.com/3d-printing-basics-free-beginners-guide – Free beginner guide to 3-D printing
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