box of completed ear savers
Boxed 3D printed ear savers

Cranfield University’s Centre for Competitive Creative Design printing facilities (C4D/3DPrint) have been supporting local hospital communities to make hundreds of adjustable connectors for face masks. They will be used by NHS staff and key workers at Milton Keynes University Hospital and will help them to protect their skin from damage and sores, which can be caused by wearing tight PPE face masks for long shifts.  

Worn for prolonged periods, the face masks can cause ear sores and discomfort; but they are an essential safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic, with most staff of all levels now required to wear face masks in clinical areas. The simple plastic connectors are easily adjustable and help reduce the pressure of PPE face masks on the skin.

Connor Hart, Senior Technician at C4D/3DPrint is leading the project. He said: “We are pleased to be using our facilities to support NHS staff and key workers on the front line and to be a small part of the collective effort fighting Covid-19.

With special permission to open up the lab spaces on campus, the Cranfield team worked from a design supplied by the hospital to create two different-sized connectors.

“We have over 30 3D printers, including an FDM print farm, SLA, DLP and multi-jet printers,” continued Hart. “So far, 500 connectors have been produced but we have capability to produce more than 5,000 a week - for as long as they are needed or until we run out of material.”

Susie Birchall, Clinical Procurement Nurse at Milton Keynes University Hospital said: “Being in masks for 12 hours a day is creating problems for frontline staff in relation to skin irritation and sores. These simple items are currently invaluable to staff and are a fantastic way of easing the pressure they are currently facing. We’re very grateful for Cranfield University’s help and support.”

Local café Oso Coffee and Cake in Cranfield supported the effort by supplying food free of charge to the team at the University site while they rapidly created the connectors.

The production of the connectors is another element of #CranfieldCommunity, a pan-University initiative highlighting the support staff and students are giving to each other and the wider community.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.