I.T. 3D-Printing Ear Guards for Face Masks

Todd Jagerson and Jason Dean support front-line healthcare workers during pandemic

Todd Jagerson, chief information officer (CIO) at Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College, read an article, “Hospital Asks For People’s Help With Pain From Wearing A Face Mask All Day, This Boy Scout Delivers,” about how the straps on protective face masks cause pain and ear damage to healthcare personnel (HCP) who wear the masks nonstop during shifts lasting 12 hours or more.

Todd Jagerson

The article by Judita Kusaitytė spotlighted an ear guard for the protective mask strap, one produced by a 3D printer, that shifts strap pressure from behind the ears to the back of the head, eliminating the friction points that generate discomfort and injury. Quinn Callander, the Canadian Boy Scout who came up with the idea, made the ear guard’s 3D printer file public at Surgical Mask Strap Remix.

“The DCTC I.T. department has two 3D printers and the filament material we needed to print the ear guards as fast as possible,” Todd said. He checked with Jason Dean, the I.T. department’s information system specialist, to see how production of the ear guards could get underway.

Todd explained that he reached out to Rosemount-area senior living locations and learned they were very interested in ear guards for their face masks, which are a crucial component of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their front-line healthcare workers.

“The Hastings Veterans Home, unbeknownst to me, took the idea viral,” Todd said, “and that got me thinking about how the Minnesota State I.T. community has the capacity to get together and produce even more ear guards.”

Requests for 3D-printed ear guards have arrived from veteran homes in Hastings, Silver Bay, Laverne and Minneapolis as well as from Rosemount Senior Living, Trinity Care Center in Farmington, Augustana Care in Hastings and Mission Nursing Home in Plymouth.

“Jason has been really passionate about making sure the ear guards go somewhere and do some good for others,” Todd said.

Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control FAQs for COVID-19

Why does CDC continue to recommend respiratory protection equivalent or higher to the level provided by an N95 disposable filtering facepiece respirator for care of patients with known or suspected COVID-19?

CDC’s guidance to use NIOSH-approved N95 disposable filtering facepiece or higher level respirators when providing care for patients with suspected or known COVID-19 is based on the current understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and related respiratory viruses.

Current data suggest that close-range aerosol transmission by droplet and inhalation, and contact followed by self-delivery to the eyes, nose, or mouth are likely routes of transmission. Long-range aerosol transmission, such as is seen with measles, has not been a feature of SARS-CoV-2.

Potential routes of close-range transmission include splashes and sprays of infectious material onto mucous membranes and inhalation of infectious virions exhaled by an infected person. The relative contribution of each of these is not known for SARS-Co-V-2.


COVID-19 Update

Coronavirus Information

Dakota County Technical College and the Minnesota State System Office continue to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.


DCTC staff perspective…

Jason Dean took the lead on figuring out how to employ the department’s 3D printers to produce the ear guards for protective face masks.

“Todd came to me and asked if I could print these ‘ear savers’ and if so, how many could I print,” Jason said. “I ran a few test cases and determined that it took about an hour to print four of them. I told Todd that working at the office I could print about thirty per day. I also explained that if I took a machine home, I could work on the project as much as fifteen hours per day, producing closer to sixty in that time period. So, I took one of our department’s 3D printers home and began printing in my garage.”

Jason reported that Todd found a number of locations that were interested in the ear guards—and the demand swiftly outpaced the supply.

“So, I brought home a second printer,” Jason said, “and I found a new ear-saver design that allowed me to print faster and more at a time. Those changes almost tripled our production, and I have been able to print about one hundred and fifty per day for the last twelve days, starting a new batch about every one hour for fifteen hours per day.”

As of April 21, 2020, Jason had printed about 1,800 ear guards.

When asked what inspired him to take on the project, Jason said, “I had the ability and resources to help those that are helping others. It wasn’t much, and I have no interest in being recognized for this. It was what I could do to make those that truly deserve recognition more comfortable as they worked so hard to keep others safe.”

Learn more about the I.T. department at DCTC by contacting:

Todd Jagerson
Chief Information Officer