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Okanagan group uses 3D printing to make face shields for Interior Health

The group includes employees of the Okanagan Regional Library and UBCO
A batch of face shield holders waiting to be sanitized at the UBCO Makerspace. (Okanagan Makers Alliance)

A group of Okanagan 3D printing digital makers have come together to create face shields and ear savers for Interior Health employees.

Led by four Kelowna residents Dallas Rodier, Heather Marnier, Cortnee Chulo and Ben Guidolin, the group is serving as a hub for digital makers in Central Okanagan as they build face shields and ear savers to help health care workers.

Heather Marnier is a technical assistant at the Okanagan Regional Library. She said Rodier started a Facebook group about three weeks ago and put out the call for others to help him make personal protective equipment (PPE).

“A coworker of mine saw that and seeing as I’m a 3D printing enthusiast, (my coworker) invited me to join the group. Since the library has three 3D printers available, we reached out to our IT point person and he bought the materials we needed to make the face shields,” she said.

She said the library has helped the cause by buying PETG, a special type of food-grade filament that can be sanitized to Interior Health standards, which is then distributed to other digital makers in Kelowna who build face shields and ear savers.

She said the group, Okanagan Makers Alliance, is the only one so far to offer to make the shields for free or by donation. They’re working in direct partnership with Interior Health, which asked for 1,750 face shields.

Marnier said she then invited her friend Chulo to join the group. Chulo works at UBC Okanagan as the Makerspace manager, a workspace where students and staff can use 3D printers, sewing machines and other technologies to bring their ideas to life.

“Her team is our powerhouse. They have the Makerspace, they have engineering and art students involved, as well as the education department, so they have the most 3D printers and the most space that we can use as a warehouse for decontamination and sanitization and storage,” Marnier said.

The face shields being produced were designed by Rodier. Marnier said he designed it in such a way that there are very little moving parts, which gives users a more efficient way to clean them.

Rodier connected with UBCO student Guidolin, who has since helped with organizing pick-ups of the PPE.

“Once we’re done ten face shields, we fill out a form, put them in a bag and leave them out for (Guidolin) to pick up. It’s all zero contact. The face shields are then in decontamination for two days, then sanitized by the university’s team. Then he picks them up again and drops them off for Kelowna General Hosptial and Interior Health,” she said.

According to Marnier, other groups have also reached out to them, asking if they can make masks and face shields for other frontline workers, including those who work with people experiencing homelessness, or those who work in care facilities.

“They need protective gear as well. We have a lot to do so if it can’t be us who can help them, we really try to be a hub to connect them to other makers,” explained Marnier.

She went on to say it has been an awesome experience to be involved.

“It’s a lot of work. There are text messages starting at 7 a.m., going past midnight between our team here. But it’s work that I’m doing happily. It takes up the majority of my time, but it gives me that energy to do other things and to feel something positive. The human spirit that I’ve seen through this, with people donating their time, efforts and materials… it’s so uplifting during this time.”

Currently, she said the group needs funds to keep making protective gear. Information on how to donate can be found in the online group.

If you know others who are giving back and helping those in need during this critical time, send us an email and let us know!

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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