Many people are using technology to help with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some are doing it to help others.

Those with 3D printers and similar equipment have been bringing comfort and safety to health care workers and others in Northeastern Oklahoma.

Mikah Walters, owner of MTech Cave in Stilwell, repairs computers and mobile phones. Using 3D printers, laser cutters and other tools, Walters has begun to make plastic face shields. He said he just wants to give back to the community.

"My high school science teacher sent me a message and brought it to my attention," said Walters. "The shields are a hard plastic to block any particulate from reaching both the eyes and the mouth."

He found the files for the headset online, but he has designed the foam piece and the shield. Initially, Walters needed 2-liter bottles for the plastic shield, but he is expecting plastic sheets to be delivered the week beginning April 6, giving him enough to make 400 shields.

"It takes about 23 hours to make 10, and I have to come to the store every 10-13 hours to start another set. This is just the printing time; after they are printed, they must have the supports removed," said Walters. "Then I use my laser cutter to cut precise foam to fit the headset part, as well as using the laser cutter to cut the plastic face shields."

While Walters is trying to make sure any health care worker or first responder can get one, they are being offered to anyone, free of charge. With many more health care workers wearing masks for extended periods of time, "makers" have been creative to find ways to ease discomfort for all of those ears.

Clint Sunday, an information technology technician at Northeastern Health System hospital in Tahlequah, has been using his 3D printer to make face masks buckles. Another version, a clip, is being made by Tahlequah resident and businesswoman Nichole Angel on her Glowforge.

"The 3D printed face mask buckles helps masks better fit faces and relieves pressure on the ears," said Sunday.

Sunday said he can make five buckles in roughly three hours, and he's already turned in about 40 for NHS employees.

While it's called a 3D printer, the Glowforge can cut designs into a sheet of acrylic. Angel has been doing this to make ornaments and other items she sells through Restless Symphony on Etsy. Her father was a registered nurse and her grandma was a home health care worker, so Angel's heart broke when she started seeing what health care workers are going through.

"How scary would it be to go to work and be worried about catching a disease?," said Angel. "I grew up in this community. I just moved back after 10 years out of state. I'm glad to be home and that I could help."

Angel found out about the clips through a private Facebook group with about 10,000 members. The free file is available, but Angel wants to make sure people get the newest version. She can make 50 clips on one sheet, and that takes about 20 minutes for the Glowforge to cut. The acrylic has a special masking on it so the Glowforge doesn't melt it, and that has to be removed after the clips are cut.

"I sit and peel off the masking. That can take about an hour for one batch," she said. "The acrylic can be sanitized and wiped down with alcohol so it can be used multiple times over one shift."

So far, Angel has heard the clips work great and that health care workers are thankful for them.

"The clip helps to keep the mask from slipping down all of the tie. It helps fit it to the face more; it seals it a bit more. It keeps the pressure off the ears and makes the person feel safer," she said.

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