QC Co-Lab creating PPE for healthcare workers using 3D printing

Published: Apr. 7, 2020 at 7:55 PM CDT
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Volunteers with nonprofit QC Co-Lab in Davenport are creating personal protective equipment (PPE) to help medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

It's part of a much bigger network of makers across the state helping with the urgent need for PPE.

Volunteers are working around the clock to create PPE using 3D printing technology.

"It's a way for us to give back to the community that supported us for so long," said Ryan Weekly, President of the Board of Directors for QC Co-Lab.

He said, "We've printed almost 500 face shields and we've printed a good number of ear relief straps that are actually used with the paper masks."

Weekly explained the idea behind creating the ear relief strap for nurses and doctors. He said of the masks, "they wear them for 12 hours a day and they rub their ears raw so we've been printing those a lot lately."

QC Co-Lab is the largest and oldest maker space in the state of Iowa.

"We have a full wood shop, metal shop, clay lab, 3D printers, laser cutters, [computer numerical control]... you name it, we have it, you want to build it you can build it here," said Weekly.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is now operating with a new purpose.

As heroes on the front lines are needed more and more every day to protect the health and safety of others, they need the proper protection themselves.

"We have the capacity to do it. It wasn't even really a question of why to do it. We just did," said Weekly, "it's a way for us to give back to the community that supported us for so long."

Shari Telman, Treasurer of QC Co-Lab said, "We got some help during the flood last year so it's been really nice to turn around and give back out."

Some volunteers have even pitched in their own personal 3D printers from home to help meet the need.

QC Co-Lab, on Facebook, said they have donated PPE to hospitals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and in the Quad Cities.

Telman told TV6 she is doing her best to reach out to some of the smaller healthcare facilities and first responders to make sure they are equipped with the PPE they need to operate.

Over the past two weeks, their machines have been working around the clock. Volunteers come in to make sure everything is running smoothly.

To practice social distancing, typically one person will be in there at a time, unless a greater need arises, when at most three people are in the building.

So far, they have gone through approximately three and a half miles worth of filament used for 3D printing.

"Our printers have been running 24/7 for two weeks and will continue to do so as long as needed," said Weekly.

Up until the lab began printing PPE a few weeks ago, it was 100-percent member supported. Meeting the need for PPE has been made possible with the help of charitable donations as well.

If you would like to donate or learn more, you can visit QC Co-Lab's Facebook page