Help Us Get One Million Ear Savers To Essential Workers

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.

Please share 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 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. 

Thank you.


Now here’s the long version:

When others are in trouble, I want to help. I know you do too. 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. That’s the nice thing about having a PhD immunologist as your chief of staff. And because we make things, we paid special attention to what people were making to help.

When Italy’s hospitals ran out of personal protective equipment (PPE), I saw incredible stories of ingenuity. Nurses printing their own masks at home after a 12-hour shift. Doctors fabricating their own ventilator valves.

As COVID-19 has spread across the world, these stories of homemade PPE and ingenious mechanical fixes are showing up in our local papers. The heroes are our neighbors now. Everyone is pitching in.

This includes the Glowforge community. Over the last weeks and months, I’ve gotten thousands of messages from Glowforge owners who are trying to help. It makes sense: your Glowforge is a powerful, versatile tool for rapid fabrication.

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 visors and everything else are being shared online. But not all of them are actually 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 talking to 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 thousand different wonderful ideas. And Glowforge is going to pursue many of them.

They also all said the same thing:

Do the thing you can do the best, the fastest, and the most effectively first. Start small in a big way.

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 entire days wearing their masks tightly. If you’ve ever worn a mask yourself, you know how uncomfortable this is. The elastic straps can dig in painfully. If you’re on the front lines of this crisis, that discomfort leads to actual ear damage very quickly.

These Ear Savers make all the difference.

We’ve partnered with experts to design this Ear Saver. It’s fast to print, uses inexpensive materials, and can be effectively sanitized between uses. 

They’re ready to print right now.

This morning, we added the Ear Savers design to every customers’ Glowforge library. Just place acrylic in your print bed and you’re ready to go.

(if you don’t see the design right away, you can log out and log back in to refresh your library)

But it’s more than just printing. It’s about getting the Ear Savers where they need to go.

That’s where the 2 Million Essential Ears Initiative comes in.

We’re creating a network to match Glowforge owners with the people and organizations who need their help. If you have the ability to print equipment, we’ll make sure your products get into the right hands.

Volunteer here to join the effort

By volunteering, you’re joining 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 sharing on social media. #Save2MillionEars

Today, we’re releasing the Ear Savers and mobilizing the distributed printing capacity of the Glowforge community. In the days and weeks to come, we’ll keep talking to the experts to learn about what’s needed and what’s new. I’ll personally be in touch as we develop new tools and solutions, and I’ll be listening to what you – the people who are helping – have to say.

We’re all in this together. Together, we can make a difference.

– dan