Case study

Colleagues in the community: Making PPE at home

University of Derby Print Supervisor Steve Colledge has created hundreds of pieces of equipment for nursing staff and carers treating coronavirus patients - using a home 3D printer in his spare room.

Steve decided to create ear guards following a conversation with a cousin who works in a hospital.

He said: “She had told me how sore the back of her ears were from the surgical masks that NHS staff are having to wear throughout their 12-hour shifts on the frontline. 

“Having found the ear guards design via a 3D printing forum, I started printing them in early April and have continued to print them ever since. “

The ear guards were designed by 13-year-old boy in Canada and have been shared online among the worldwide 3D printing community. They are made from a substance called polylactic acid, or PLA, which is biodegradable, as it is derived from renewable raw materials such as corn starch.

So far, Steve has printed and supplied around 500 ear guards to hospitals in Leicester, Burton and Coalville, as well as to a number of care homes, home carers and ambulance staff. He also plans to contact a local community hospital which is to open up a Covid-19 aftercare ward.

Steve added: “The 3D printing community is working as a whole to help. My machine is too small to create some of the items that others are making, but it makes these ear guards just fine. I can only print four per hour. That said, I am still able to print 48 per day.”

Ear guards being printed at home by University of Derby Print Supervisor Steve Colledge.
An example of how the ear guards are connected to facemasks