Wilsonville family prints ear savers for health care workers
Beginning at 5:30 a.m. and ending when they shut down their 3D printers around midnight, members of the Martin family usually hear a swishing sound emanating from their five printers. Once the sound is replaced by quiet, they know it's time to start a new batch.
"We're constantly resetting them," David Martin said. "All you hear in our house is the constant of them running."
The Martins, who live in Wilsonville and include David, wife Corey Martin and their sons Joey Martin, 13, and Charlie Martin, 11, spend every waking day printing "ear savers" to provide relief for mask-wearing health care workers, first responders and military personnel impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus. David Martin said they've shipped over 14,000 of the devices to people in 31 states for free.
Corey Martin said the elastic bands on the masks health care workers use sometimes rip into the back of their ears, creating considerable discomfort. The ear savers connect to the masks and wrap around the back of the neck to reduce the contact between masks and ears.
"They're putting themselves into a very difficult situation, and we know that when you're in pain you don't function at your best," David Martin said. "If this gives them some relief so they can serve in their jobs better, that's what it's about."
The Martins are active volunteers in organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and Daughters of the American Revolution, and this project has given them another way to volunteer.
"Our mindset as a family has always been very service-based. We spend a lot of times in our lives giving back to other people," Corey Martin said. "Usually that's done outside of the home. Being stuck in the home, this was a great opportunity for us to give something and make some sort of an impact on the situation even though we're not actively out there."
Before the pandemic, the Martins had planned to start a 3D printing side business, DeNile Creative, where they would sell knickknacks like trading card- and air plant-holders with designs like the "Guardians of the Galaxy" character Groot.
But once COVID-19 began to spread and they saw a Facebook post from another Scout leader about an ear saver design, they decided to shift gears to a more egalitarian focus.
"I started investigating. He (the scout leader) said, 'Can you print me 10 of these.' I said, 'Yeah sure.' We started really small. People started finding out we were printing these and we started scaling up," David Martin said.
And the Martins have had no shortage of demand for the products. David Martin said the New Jersey health care system asked for 6,700 of the devices. And when a nurse or a friend of a nurse asks them for a few ear savers, they offer them to the entire department.
The Martins can print about 45 ear savers at a time and complete them in about an hour and a half.
"I think it's a very great project honestly," Joey Martin said.
For his part, David Martin felt helpless at the beginning of the pandemic. But this endeavor has given him and his family a sense of purpose and a way to help those who are risking their lives to serve the public.
"The stories I've heard from the people really dealing in the hospitals (with) COVID is (it's) unbearably extreme. There's no way they're not feeling the stress and aren't scared," he said. "I don't know that it's an 'Oh, yay us.' It's more of a 'Thank God, we can take something off their plate to make their lives easier.'"
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