This is a long post because it’s about a big problem. But here’s the short version:
We’re getting One Million Ear Savers to the essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
All you have to do to help is share glowforge.com on social media and tag your friends. We’ve taken over our homepage to make it fast and easy for the essential workers who need help to sign up.
By spreading the word, you’ll be connecting doctors and nurses, cleaners and grocery staff, transit and delivery workers, first responders and so, so many more to a critical PPE aid they need on the front lines.
It may seem small, but taking just 30 seconds to share this will make a big difference.
Then, if you have one minute more, you can put your Glowforge to work fighting against the crisis. We can connect you to people in your community who need Ear Savers and print them at home - they take less than 60 seconds apiece.
Now here’s the long version:
When others are in trouble, I want to help. I know you do too. That’s why you opened this email. That’s human. We’re all wired to look out for each other. To take care of each other.
And because of COVID-19, a lot of people are in trouble.
In early February, the team here at Glowforge started paying attention to the news of the coronavirus’s spread. As word filtered out of China, our operations team started coordinating with our Chief of Staff, who happens to have a PhD in immunology. First we had to figure out how to keep our team safe. Then we started to look for ways to help. And because we make things, we paid special attention to what people were making.
When Italy’s hospitals ran out of personal protective equipment (PPE), I saw incredible stories of heartbreak and ingenuity. Nurses fabricating ventilator valves at home after a 12-hour shift. Doctors creating face shields from parts around the house.
As COVID-19 spread across the world, these stories of homemade solutions to life-threatening problems started showing up in our local papers. The heroes became our neighbors. Everyone started pitching in.
And I’ve seen that nowhere more than the amazing Glowforge community. Over the last weeks and months, I’ve gotten thousands of messages from Glowforge owners who are looking for ways to help. And it’s no surprise: while we come from all over the world, with a dizzying variety of skills, experiences, and backgrounds, we have one thing in common: a belief that we can print things that make the world better.
Here’s the problem: it’s not always obvious how best to help.
The more we spoke to medical staff, the more we heard cautions. PPE is medical equipment that’s strictly regulated. Due to the overwhelming shortages, conventional modes of supplying PPE are being supplemented (or replaced) by crisis supply in many locations. But every hospital has its own rules.
And even when you can make a piece of PPE that a hospital can accept, how do you know which design to use? Dozens of designs for masks and valves and everything else are being shared online. But it’s hard to find out what’s actually going to be effective.
Three weeks ago, I went to my garage planning to print personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to our local front line workers. But I couldn’t figure out which design to print, or who would accept the donation if I did.
The more I learned about homemade PPE, the more clear it was that there wasn’t an easy way for people to help. So I did what I always do when I’m confused: I called a bunch of people who are way smarter than me.
I’ve spent the last several weeks with my team working with biomedical engineers, epidemiologists, biochemists, material scientists, doctors, and other experts. I asked them all the same question:
What can we do to help?
They had a huge variety of different and wonderful ideas. And Glowforge is going to pursue many of them.
They also all agreed on one thing:
Do the thing you can do the best, the fastest, and the most effectively, first.
So here’s what Glowforge is doing to help:
We’re going to get One Million Ear Savers in the hands of those who need them to protect 2 Million Essential Ears.
An Ear Saver is a small acrylic adapter that lets people in harm’s way wear a surgical or N95 mask comfortably. The hooks let the wearer use a mask of any size, which is important when not every sized mask is available to every worker. Fit is crucial for forming a safe seal, and the Ear Saver makes a correct fit much, much easier.
Another important thing: it’s more comfortable. Front line workers are spending days and weeks on end wearing their masks. If you’ve ever worn a mask yourself, you know how uncomfortable this is. The elastic straps can dig in painfully. If you’re out there keeping us safe during this crisis in a mask, that discomfort leads to actual ear damage very quickly.
These Ear Savers can make all the difference.
We’ve partnered with experts to create the design. It’s fast to print, uses inexpensive materials, and can be effectively sanitized between uses.
You can print them right now.
This morning, we added the Ear Savers design to your Glowforge Print library, for free. Just place acrylic in your print bed and you’re ready to go.
If you don’t see the design right away, log out and log back in to refresh your library.
We’re going to turn part of our factory over to mass-produce huge numbers of Ear Savers for major medical providers who need thousands at a time. But the problem is more than just printing. It’s about getting the Ear Savers where they need to go, as fast as possible.
That’s where the 2 Million Essential Ears Initiative comes in.
We’re creating a network to match Glowforge owners with people and organizations who need their help in their own community.
And we can help you join. You’ll find everything you need to help at glowforge.com.
By volunteering, you’re becoming a part of a community of researchers, inventors, engineers, and makers dedicated to helping others. We have the tools. We have the technology. Together, we can make a difference.
Please help us get the word out to front line workers by sending them to glowforge.com where we’ll connect them with individuals just like you. #Save2MillionEars
Today, we’re releasing Ear Savers and starting to pull together the threads of the Glowforge community to create a single fabric. Today we’ll start protecting the people in harm’s way to protect us. In the days and weeks to come, we’ll keep working with experts to learn about what’s needed and what’s new. I’ll be here printing along with you, and letting you know if there are other ways we can help.
We’re all in this together. Together, we can make a difference.
PS: You can find a discussion of this update here!