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Using a 3D printer to protect Canada’s frontline heroes.

Over the course of the pandemic, our first responders and healthcare workers have been working tirelessly to help Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast. To support them in this unprecedented time, volunteers across the country have been using their expertise, time and personal 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) used on the frontlines of COVID-19.  Ian Tremblay, a member of our Customer Experience team, is one of those volunteers – and this is his story.

Ian’s desire to help started with a passion for model trains. “I got my first 3D printer about a year ago to begin experimenting and printing model trains,” he said. Once the pandemic hit, he realized that his hobby could turn into something valued and beneficial for many Canadians. “My brother was watching TV one day and a segment was on about how 3D printers were being used to print face shields for healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients,” Ian shared. “He called me up and said, ‘Ian, you could do this!’ After some quick research online, I found some simple design templates and I just started printing!”

We asked Ian to share his first-hand account of how 3D printing has helped Canada’s first responders and those in need over the last few months.

We heard about your inspiration for making the PPE and how you started the process. Now, how did you begin distributing the PPE you developed?

Early on in the pandemic, I had developed and donated 100 – 200 face shields to my family doctor. He then coordinated to get them to local doctors, senior homes, anybody in need. Soon after, he actually tweeted in response to Hayley Wickenheiser’s call for PPE to donate to the Conquer COVID-19 drive, and my shields were donated to the cause. This was really the beginning of it, and between March to the end of June, I had printed and donated a little over 1500 shields.

How were you able to fund the printing?

It was truly a group effort. I personally funded the first 200 shields, and all the rest have been funded by donors to cover the costs. After the Conquer COVID-19 donation, I put out an ask on Facebook asking for donations if anyone wanted to contribute and within a day, the DMs started to flow in for donations! Each mask costs about $2 to make, and I always asked where they wanted to donate to – whether it was a long-term care home, funeral homes or their family doctor

Where have your masks been distributed to?

At the beginning, the majority of shields all went to doctors, with about 200 going to doctors in Toronto who were helping the homeless and working in shelters. After that, it was mainly people who reached out and wanting to donate and send PPE to specific locations. I would print them, and they would pick them up at a meeting place so we could keep our distance.

A few examples include a Rogers co-worker who reached out as her grandmother was in a long-term care home and wanted 100 PPE to donate. Her sister is a nurse in the maternity ward at a hospital and wanted to donate 200 pieces of PPE to the department and so we made baby blue and pink shields. Just really wherever and whenever they were needed, we wanted to help. 

How long does each mask take to make, and how many have you made?

So, the printer I use prints in pairs and each pair takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes, with some extra time to cool down afterwards. I ended up purchasing another two printing machines to help speed up the process, which helped so much.

What would you say to someone who is wanting to contribute more to their community during COVID-19 but not sure where to start?

Talk to your doctor, local senior’s home, non-profit groups/charities see what they might be in need of to help. With COVID-19 and being ‘trapped’ at home, combined with the fact that Rogers has given us the flexibility to work from home, this all enabled me to put the 3D printers to good use and really make a difference.

During the course of COVID-19, the lives and routines of Canadians have been turned upside down. To many, the silver lining in this challenging time is the incredible acts of kindness, support and community that are all around each and every day. As Ian said, “we can all do something to help.”

Supporting individual community contributions like Ian’s.

One of the ways Rogers is helping to make a better Canada possible.