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To Bolivar and beyond


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An afternoon last week looked a little more like Christmas morning than a typical spring day for a group of Bolivar City firefighters. 

Standing outside the Public Service Center on Thursday, April 16, alderman Justin Ballard smiled and chatted as firefighters dug into a cardboard box, filled to the brim with 3D printed face masks, he brought them. 

Ballard, who said he made 30 masks in around 10 days as part of the local 3D Printed Masks for Bolivar group, gave tips on proper fit and talked about filter material. 

He said he’s privileged to play a small part in a wide scale project that organizers say has now spread across the globe.

Bolivar Fire Chief Brent Watkins said he’s thankful for the donation. 

“It’s one more tool in the toolbox to keep these guys safe,” he said. “That’s what it’s ultimately about — to be able to serve the citizens but be able to keep staff safe as we do that.”

Exponential growth

While most of the nation has spent the last several weeks moving at a slower pace, the 3D printing team has been hard at work.   

In around a month, the team of volunteers have logged around 1,000 collective hours of work, said Matt Havens, a physician assistant at Citizens Memorial Hospital’s Butterfield Medical Center who first developed the concept of a 3D printed mask with his brother, Nick, an infectious disease specialist in Columbia.  

{{tncms-inline alignment="right" content="<p dir="ltr"><span>So far, 3D Printing Group of Bolivar has made nearly 800 masks and delivered them to the following organizations:</span></p> <ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>325 masks to Citizens Memorial Hospital, with another 250 in reserve </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>50 to the Carrie Babb Cancer Center</span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>15 to Bolivar Fire Department </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>22 to Bolivar Police Department  </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>35 to Polk County Sheriff’s Office </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>3 to Humansville Police Department </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>5 to Pleasant Hope Police Department </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>50 to Cedar County first responders </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>35 to Cedar County Sheriff’s Office</span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>4 to a small family medical practice in Neosho </span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span>4 to Dickerson Park Zoo</span></p></li></ul>" id="8e597c50-984f-4fd4-ab76-9ad0251c4804" style-type="fact" title="By the numbers" type="relcontent" width="half"}}

On Saturday, March 21, Havens began working to develop a successful mask with a group of friends, including Keith Kelly, Matthew Winder, Dennis Siegfried, Lucas Roberts and Darrick Hemphill, and his cousin Todd Morton.

The group had a workable prototype just three days later.

After tests at CMH, two final successful designs — made of thermoplastic, PVC/rubber weather stripping, ¾-inch elastic bands and a HEPA filter — were complete.  

Since then, the core group’s added more volunteers. 

Havens said they had 20 people, like Ballard, printing on their personal printers, in addition to printers loaned to the group by community members. 

“We had 16 members on our assembly team,” he said. “We also had consultation assistance from a couple team members outside of the area.”

{{tncms-inline alignment="right" content="<p dir="ltr">“We owe a lot to our team members and volunteers, and even more to the community for the donations. They really made this all possible. It really was a community effort.” — Matt Havens</p>" id="51efb02c-2200-46a3-bd47-0bccca7a537f" style-type="quote" title="Havens1" type="relcontent" width="half"}}

Kelly said Cheri Jones headed up the assembly team effort.

And, the group has printed more than a few masks. As of this week, the number of printed and assembled masks hit 798, Havens said. 

Roberts said the masks have gone to CMH, as well as local fire departments, law enforcement and first responders.  

“We knew there was a vast national shortage of N95 respirators, and while we hoped that southwest Missouri and Polk County would be spared from the effects of that shortage, we wanted to do everything we could to make sure that our health care workers, law enforcement and first responders had as much backup as possible,” he said. 

{{tncms-inline alignment="right" content="<p dir="ltr"><span>For Bolivar City Fire Chief Brent Watkins and his firefighters, the challenges brought on by a shortage of PPE hit close to home. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the fire department hasn’t responded to medical calls. </span></p> <p>“We don’t have the PPE to run medicals long-term,” Watkins said. “We want to go back to responding to all medical calls, but we can’t, if you’re talking about two to three masks per medical call. Last year, we ran over 900 medical calls.” </p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Watkins said “that adds up to a lot of masks quickly.” </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>“And when you can’t even get one per person right now, how do we do it for the long haul?” he asked.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Last week, state leaders recalled 48,000 KN95 masks sent to law enforcement and fire departments around the state after testing by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services showed they did not meet the state's standards for PPE. </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Watkins said his department received some of those masks, but no firefighters had used them. </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>“We hadn’t opened them yet,” he said.  </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Both the Bolivar Police Department and Polk County Sheriff’s Office received the recalled PPE, as well. BPD said no officers used the masks. </span></p>" id="d024b22b-0b04-4d03-9179-29e29de04886" style-type="fact" title="The struggle is real" type="relcontent" width="half"}}

But, the project is quickly spreading beyond Polk County and southwest Missouri. 

The successful design is freely available online, Havens said. 

“Due to the group’s efforts, we may have the opportunity to keep hundreds, if not thousands, of health care workers safe since the design will be freely disseminated,” Havens previously said.

He said the team has “fielded a lot of requests from all over the country asking for technical assistance to use our design in their own communities.”

This week, the group found out their design is being used by 3D printers in Denver. It was also shared with an online community of around 580 3D printer hobbyists from across the globe who are using the design. 

“There's even a guy in Brazil who posted a selfie of him wearing it,” Havens said. 

While it’s exciting to see the design spread to other parts of the world, none of the project’s success locally would have been possible without community support.

Roberts said the group’s had two local donation drives and one fundraiser.  

“First, we let the public know we were accepting donations of PLA plastic filament rolls,” he said. “PLA is the plastic material we use to print the masks. The community ordered around 120 rolls of plastic in just a couple of days and greatly exceeded our expectations.”

He said the community also donated a large amount of elastic toward the project. Havens said Bolivar’s First Baptist Church helped with gasket material, and Gary Short donated filter material.

Thanks to a fundraiser through Polk County Community Connections, the team raised $1,637 in less than a week for filter material, Roberts said.   

“We owe a lot to our team members and volunteers, and even more to the community for the donations,” Havens said. “They really made this all possible. It really was a community effort!”

Roberts said for now, the team’s production has been scaled back since they’ve met current requests for masks. 

“That being said, our team is ready to spin production back up to its full potential quickly if the need arises,” he added. 

To find more information on the group, visit the 3D Printed Masks for Bolivar Facebook page or bolivAIR.com. 

Innovation abounds

Another Bolivar resident is helping local health care professionals with use of his 3D printer. 

According to a CMH news release, Shane Woollard — who owns a 3D printer at home and works in the Marion C. Early School District Information Technology Department — created 3D printed face shield frames for Citizens Memorial Hospital. 

“He recently delivered 500 frames that are made out of thermoplastic and use transparency film that attaches to become personal protective equipment face shields,” the release said. 

The release said Woollard started working on the project in early March as soon as it became obvious there were going to be shortages of PPE due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The 3D printing community was looking at ways that we could contribute,” Woollard said in the release. 

{{tncms-inline alignment="center" content="<p dir="ltr">“It’s one more tool in the toolbox to keep these guys safe. That’s what it’s ultimately about — to be able to serve the citizens but be able to keep staff safe as we do that.” — BCFD Fire Chief Brent Watkins</p>" id="07b4e6e0-507e-48c5-9be7-cb95926d485d" style-type="quote" title="Watkins1" type="relcontent" width="full"}}

While there are many designs available for face shield frames, Woollard said he “tweaked a design” based on a Swedish version and “printed several and looked at the pros and cons of each and how the transparency film could be attached.”

It took Woollard a couple of weeks to produce the face shield frames on his home 3D printer, the release said.   

The release said Woollard’s final design reduced the amount of thermoplastic used by 50% per frame, helping him produce more face shield frames with the same amount of thermoplastic.

The frame doesn’t need additional straps to stay in place, the release said. The transparency film is hole-punched and attaches to the frame.

The face shield frame, which is worn on the forehead, can be disinfected and reused, while the transparency film can be thrown away. The film was collected by individuals and organizations, the release said. 

"I saw the need and knew I could help out in a small way by making these face shield frames for the hospital,” Woollard said. “It was just something that I wanted to do to help.”

{{tncms-inline content="<p dir="ltr">The local need for PPE continues, particularly at CMH as the health care system implemented universal masking for all of its employees.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rolled out in four phases, CMH started its universal masking program April 1 for departments that were in direct patient/resident care and expanded the masking program each week,” a news release said. </p> <p dir="ltr">Starting Monday, April 20, all CMH employees were expected to wear face masks at work, the release said. </p> <p dir="ltr">The requirement, the release said, is in line with recent updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. </p> <p dir="ltr">“CMH received additional shipments of masks in the last few weeks, enabling us to go to universal masking for all employees,” Gary Fulbright, CEO/executive director of CMH and CMH Foundation, said in the release. “Previously, we prioritized who should wear face masks based on CDC guidelines.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Fulbright said universal masking does not mean there are increases of exposure to the coronavirus in the area. </p> <p dir="ltr">“This means that we want to protect our employees, patients and residents from asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 from individuals,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to recommended hand hygiene and social distancing, all CMH employees are screened for fever and symptoms of COVID-19 before each shift, the release said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The release said cloth face coverings are helpful for patients and visitors to CMH facilities. </p> <p dir="ltr">“We are encouraging all patients and visitors to wear homemade cloth face masks before entering the hospital or clinics, which will further protect our patients and employees from potentially spreading COVID-19 even before they show symptoms,” Fulbright said.</p> <p dir="ltr">He said CMH has had a “tremendous response” from people in the community who’ve sewn and donated cloth masks.   </p> <p dir="ltr">“We are grateful for their generosity and are happy to provide anyone who needs or wants a cloth face mask to pick one up at the hospital or clinics,” Fulbright said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The release said CMH has laundered and individually packaged donated cloth face masks for patients and visitors. Anyone interested in sewing cloth face masks should call Wren Hall, director of community relations, at 328-6318.</p>" id="96aaa5e5-c26d-4b29-9fd1-f6b9564dcc42" style-type="fact" title="CMH implements universal masking" type="relcontent"}}

*Editor's note: This article was updated Saturday, April 25, with additional information on the assembly team effort provided by the 3D printing group.


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