Baylor Libraries Aid Waco’s Coronavirus Fight by 3D Printing Devices for Family Health Clinic

  • Full-Size Image: FHC Tension Relief Bands
    Family Health Center medical staff received 550 tension-relief bands printed using equipment from the Baylor University Libraries' Experiential Learning Commons.
  • Full-Size Image: 3D Printer Tension Relief Bands
    A 3D printer in the Experiential Learning Commons at the Baylor Libraries prints a tension-relief band for Family Health Center medical personnel to use with surgical masks.
  • Full-Size Image: NIH Tension Relief Bands
    A model wears a facemask and tension-relief band. (Courtesy of NIH website)
April 16, 2020

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
Libraries Contact: Eric Ames, Baylor Libraries, 254-710-1576
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WACO, Texas (April 16, 2020) – For medical professionals working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) is a necessary but sometimes uncomfortable tool in the fight to stay healthy. Now, thanks to the resources of the Baylor University Libraries, health care professionals at Family Health Center Waco have received 550 3D printed surgical mask tension-relief bands produced on equipment from the libraries’ Experiential Learning Commons (ELC).

“We saw an opportunity to use our 3D printers to solve an immediate and timely need by jumping onto this project,” said Andrew Telep, assistant director for the Experiential Learning Commons at Baylor Libraries. “If it makes wearing a mask even slightly more comfortable for the health care workers doing all they can to protect our community, it is well worth the effort.”

The collaboration began with a personal connection between Telep and Fernando Arroyo, chief of staff at the FHC. Arroyo shared how the physicians, nurses and medical staff at 16 clinics were spending hours wearing masks to protect them from the especially virulent and easily spread novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Arroyo expressed interest in obtaining something like a tension-relief band to make wearing surgical masks for long periods more comfortable.

Telep discovered that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website featured a set of 3D-printing plans for a small band that, when worn across the back of the head, provides hooks for the facemasks’ rubber bands. The bands hook onto the tension-relief band instead of a person’s ears, making the mask more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.

Telep’s work overseeing the ELC provides access to several 3D printers, which are normally used to support student and faculty research and projects ranging from producing prototypes to fully rendered models and custom projects like stands for the libraries’ copy of the Saint John’s Bible. With the clinically reviewed and recommended models freely available on the NIH website, it was a matter of preparing the models for printing, loading the printers with filament and repeating the print process.

However, with Waco and McLennan County’s shelter-in-place order by closing campus to essential staff, Telep didn’t have student assistants available to operate the printers for extended projects as he would in normal conditions. Knowing the importance of the project and seeing only one alternative, he loaded the printers into his car and brought them home, where he has been running them since April 10.

Telep delivered the tension-relief bands to Arroyo and the FHC Tuesday, April 15, and is keeping the printers running as long as there is a need for the devices. In fact, Telep has begun work on another batch of hundreds of bands at the request of Taylor Ulmer, an administrative resident at Baylor Scott & White and a master’s candidate at Baylor in health care administration.

Telep said anyone with a 3D printer at home who wants to join in the effort can find the model on the NIH website at 3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013410.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE BAYLOR UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES

The Baylor University Libraries lead as an innovative research library that undergirds scholarship, fosters teaching and learning, and builds communities. Comprised of the Central Libraries and world-renowned special collections that include the Armstrong Browning Library, The Texas Collection and University Archives, The Institute for Oral History, the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society, and the W. R. Poage Legislative Library, the Libraries drive research at Baylor University and beyond.

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