BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Public Library’s MakerBot 3D printer may not be human but its new job has a heart.
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For the past two weeks, the library has been involved in two projects with two other libraries and two local colleges to use 3D printers to make and deliver protective face shields to Albany Medical Center healthcare workers. The library is working with the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Community Library, Albany Public Library and two SUNY Albany colleges — the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.
The Bethlehem library’s 3D printer was moved to Head of IT John Love’s house after the library temporarily closed on March 13 due to concerns for the COVID-19 pandemic. With Love watching over it, it is now printing headbands that will be given to the UAlbany colleges that will further assemble them to make protective face shields with transparent report covers and more.
Geoffrey Kirkpatrick, the library’s director, said the 3D printer uses plastic filament to help create the headbands. He added that the library has “a good stock” of the plastic filament which also comes in different colors like pink and green, and Love keeps track of the inventory.
Love said he got started two weeks ago when Judith Wines, the RCS Community Library’s director, connected him with the UAlbany College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, and learned about the headbands’ designs. These headband designs are originally from the National Institute of Health’s website.
Love said he has printed at least 30 headbands so far and noted it can range between 1 hour 15 minutes and 2 hours 45 minutes to print one, depending on their size. The library also gave 20 completed face shields to Delmar-Bethlehem EMS on Friday, April 2, after finding some plastic transparencies in its supply closet.
Kirkpatrick said the 3D printer was originally brought into the library in late 2014, was moved into its Studio Makerspace and is the older of two. “We have another 3D printer that’s currently not working and we’re trying to get parts for it so that John can work on it and double the capacity of making headbands,” he said. “We’ll keep making headbands until we hear from UAlbany that the hospital has everything it needs.”
He connected the benefits of the 3D printer with how the library continues to support its community, like with online resources for its patrons. “We’ve expanded our ability to provide e-books and downloadable videos, music, comic books and much more,” he said. “People have also come to our parking lots to use the Wi-Fi if they don’t have internet access at home. It’s imperfect but we’re trying to supply our online resources as best as we can. Just because we’re deemed a non-essential business under executive orders, doesn’t mean we’re not important.”
Kirkpatrick expressed gratitude for Love’s actions and ability to troubleshoot any of the printer’s issues. “You can imagine how difficult it is for our staff working from home to troubleshoot account problems now but John volunteered to take the printer into his house and keep it running,” he said. “He’s been great and awesome.”
Love concluded, “Right now, it’s very important because we want to help and supplies for face shields are running low at this time. Granted the headbands we make are not medical-grade but it’s better than nothing if we can produce these things and make it easier for them.”
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