3D Printing Ear Savers

Hey Reader! I hope you’re doing well during quarantine. With all the content on the internet, I really appreciate that you’re right here, reading my thoughts.

If you haven’t heard of them, Ear Savers are these little devices that remove the tension of the elastic bands of surgery mask off the ears shown here. After finding the design for these, I started printing as many as I could but first let’s go back to where this journey started.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty unmotivated to code which happens from time to time and it’ll pass. It’s probably this whole COVID-19 thing /change of day-to-day flow, maybe you’ve heard of it? In the meantime, I ordered a 3d printer since I’ve always been super interested in learning how to use one and what possibilities they offered. I went with the Ender 3 Pro here. Based on the reviews, it seemed pretty solid for a starter printer ($289).

the Setup

Once it arrived, I went through the setup and chose the dog as my starting 3d printed “Pokemon” (printer comes with a dog, cat, and pig .gcode files ready to print on a micro SD). G-code files are a set of instructions for telling a computerized machine tool how to build something. After that successful build right out of the gate, I tried the other animals then I switched to a different filament other than using the prepackaged one (it’s white) that came with the printer.

I tried to print the dog with a different color of filament, black this time, and it printed just fine using the default extruder nozzle temperature (200 degree C) and bed (50 degrees C). I switched the filament to silk rainbow here with the default settings and got a different result. The filament wasn’t flowing out of the extruder as smoothly, so I assumed (noob here, hi) that the temperature of the extruder nozzle needed to be hotter. I kept playing around until I got to 209 and upped the bed to 60 degree celsius. This seemed to be the ideal. So here is what I found that been netting me successful results so far with the filament I’ve used:

But getting the temperature down is only half the battle; the other half was leveling the bed and loosing the wheels a little. Leveling will change per printer but I found a really good video for my printer. Using the .gcode files in that video, I was able to level the bed really well (break out the stickers).

the Design

So the Design…at first, I started poking around Thingvere — a place where you can download .stl files made by members the community. STL files are basically exports of 3d models from CAD software. Once you have the models, you convert or slice them into a set of instructions (.gcode for example) that the printer can understand. Let me be clear though, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes the designs have flaws that the printer may struggle with. Your printer itself may have its own limitation. So if you get a design you want to print, it may take some tweaking of the design, temperatures, printer speed, etc to get it perfect.

I found a designed I wanted to print, downloaded the .stl file and opened it inside of Cura (free version). Cura allows you to import .stl files and export the instructions in your printer’s forma to a file or removable storage. Having exported the design to a microSD card, I inserted the card into the printer, tweaked the temp settings and started printing.

oh right… what was the design asked the curious ones… it was something related to Genji (Don’t roll your eyes at me veterans Overwatch players, I’ll main Genji any day!)

But the design wouldn’t print properly so I canceled, and went to bed since it was late. Laying in bed, I remember skimming across an article of a boy scout in Europe printing Ear Savers so I set a reminder in my phone to look that up later.

Next the day, found the article and came across a 3d printing website for the National Institute of Health. I found the design for the Ear Savers and they looked to be useful. One of my good buddies back home leads a team of registered nurses so I asked if he needed any. He hadn’t heard of them before and ask for some so I started printing the design I found:

Having some other filament colors available like silk rainbow, white, and silk champagne, I switched it up:

Making progress!

After a few days of printing between 5–7 of these every 3–4 hours using one printer, I wanted to change the design to give his staff some other options. The design I was using captioned: This design has undergone review in a clinical setting and has been found appropriate when fabricated with the printer type and materials specified. Some of the others had: “This model has not been assessed for community use or in a clinical setting. Further optimization may be required.. I printed a few of the ladder but a few lacked structural integrity; that is to say — bend it too much and it’s completely ruined. So I shipped out the first set to my buddy while I worked on the second set since I knew his hours were starting to get longer. While the second set was being printed, I went to work on editing this former design.

I really wanted to take the approved version and maybe enhance (or remix) it in some way so I used a tool called Tinkercad. This tool allows you to create 3d models in which you’ll export to an .stl file. I exported the text “HERO” and brought it, along with .stl of the approved version into Cura. I meshed the two and created 7 objects to print (or as much as I could fit on the printer bed).

I started to like this design. My only issue is that I assume the wearer would probably want to reverse it when they wore it so the “HERO” would need to be flipped. Here are a gold set of 7 being printed with the last modification.

woot

There is probably a font or a better way to add the text to the design that would increase its strength but I’m still pretty new to all this stuff. I uploaded the .stl files for a single and seven count here. After printing, I do a little bit of cleanup on the letters using wire cutters and tweezers.

I sent out the second set today to my buddy and am working on another set for a local hospital north of me looking for these. When I’m done, I’ve been instructed to ship them to a specific address. If you have a 3d printer and are looking to help, some local hospitals might still be looking for these. I do not recommend dropping these off, do call beforehand. I hope someone finds this useful. Thanks for reading and extra special shoutout to all of medical staff working hard right now.

Stay safe out there!

Update: I just realized this is my 20th article! woot!

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