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The Maker Factory of National Cheng Kung University created the "Pressure-relieving Ear Guard" for face masks and called on all "makers" in Taiwan to support medical care.

Edited by NCKU News Center
Photos by NCKU Maker Factory, Facebook—Eyes of an Emergency Physician (Dr. Bai, Yong-jia)

Since March of this year, the NCKU Maker Factory has distributed 1500 pieces of pressure-relieving ear guards to nearly 40 hospitals in Taiwan to relieve the ear discomfort caused by the pressure on health care workers who wear masks for a long time. The NCKU Maker Factory is able to produce 150 pieces of pressure-relieving ear guards per day, and the 3D printing source code is available for free on the official website of the NCKU Maker Factory, calling on everyone to join in the 3D printing and help health care workers to tide over the difficult time.


The pressure-relieving ear guards were supplied to Kaohsiung Medical University, Yuan's General Hospital and Department of Health, Kaohsiung City Government, and were highly appreciated by the health care workers. The CEO of NCKU Maker Factory, Lin Tian-zhu, was both surprised and delighted at the success of the pressure-relieving ear guards. "I was surprised at how much our work was appreciated and welcomed and delighted to be able to make a contribution. Although I was very busy at that time, I felt honored to be able to connect with professionals in various fields and contribute to the community selflessly," said Lin.


Despite the easing of the epidemic, pressure-relieving ear guards are still a very useful item for health care workers who need to wear masks for long periods of time. In order to overcome production and cost issues, Lin is planning to start mold production in the future, and is currently discussing with mold makers on the production of materials and possible problems that may occur when the mold is released, as well as the final improvement and adjustment of the pressure-relieving ear guard.

Lin said that the concept of the pressure-relieving ear guards has already existed overseas, so he collected the design drafts and improved them to make the first version of the pressure-relieving ear guards in less than a week. He also hopes that more makers will join the brainstorming session, so that the pressure-relieving ear guards can be improved and mass-produced to contribute to the front-line health care workers who are facing the virus.


From medical masks to alcohol aerosol cans, the Maker Factory wanted to contribute to the prevention of epidemics during severe times. Taking into account the time needed for printing and the urgency of the process, we decided to make the pressure-relieving ear guards first. The Maker Factory uses PLA thermoplastic material, which allows the finished product to be immersed in hot water above 60 degrees Celsius and shaped to fit the user's head better.


Lin pointed out that there is no problem in 3D printing technology for pressure-relieving ear guards, but how to increase the speed is yet to be overcome. It takes 2.5 hours for one machine to print 3 pressure-relieving ear guards at one time. However, since March, when the online application form was opened, more than 100 medical institutions registered in Taiwan in just 4 days, with a total demand of more than 2,000 pieces, and even received the form from Singapore.


Each version of the pressure-relieving ear guards is first given to the health care workers to try out and then improved by the feedback from the health care workers. In the original design, the hooks were pointed and protruding. Therefore, after health care workers tried it on, they found it a bit dangerous and sometimes even cut the threads of the mask, so the ear guard was modified to a rounded shape. The width has also been adjusted. Although the wider the width, the more stable it is, however, the longer it takes to print and produce. The most difficult part is how to reduce the production time and achieve a comfortable design at the same time. At present, the demand for pressure-relieving ear guards is still in high demand, and all Taiwanese makers are welcome to join in the production.


To download the source code, please visit the official website of NCKU Maker Factory: https://makerfactory.tw/site/download 


How the pressure-relieving ear guards is worn.



NCKU Maker Factory uses 3D printing to print pressure-relieving ear guards for distribution to health care workers.