“What started as a small personal project to help out has turned into a network of giving,” says Tom Rueckl, a BMO Financial Advisor in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “We have come together, individuals and companies alike, to serve the greater good.”
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Tom wanted to find a way to help out in his community. “I knew I had to find something that I could manufacture on my 3D printers,” says Tom, a long-time 3D printing enthusiast who had previously mostly printed items for use around the house. After seeing the immense need for face masks to protect healthcare and other frontline workers from the virus, Tom did some online research, and decided to create frames for face shields.
These face shields are reusable, and they form a protective barrier in front of N95 masks, making them extremely valuable for frontline workers. As the crisis began to unfold and face shield manufacturers were working to step up their manufacturing capabilities, Tom knew that these 3D-printed shields could help bridge the gap, getting protective gear to people who needed it right away.
After discussions with his online 3D printing groups, Tom could see that getting materials was going to be an issue. So he began reaching out to his contacts, hoping they could help. Immediately, a variety of community partners provided Tom with everything he needed to make, cut and distribute the shields. N.E.W. Plastics Corp. donated the original shield material, and Wild Blue Technologies, Griffin Industries and D&S Machine Service provided additional supply. Then Laserform LLC offered up the use of their industrial lasers for cutting the shields. “We’ve had a great outpouring from companies around here who’ve been willing to help,” says Tom.
Meanwhile, Tom’s friends began joining in on the effort. And after a local TV broadcast about the project, even more support poured in. “What started as a personal desire to assist with PPE has turned into a community-wide effort to supply more than 6,000 (and counting) 3D-printed protective face shields,” says Tom. “We began with just a couple of printers, and with the help of online groups and TV coverage, we were able to grow our group of shield makers to over 100 – with some makers as young as 17.”
Tom has always been eager to volunteer in his community – he’s the president of the Ribbon of Hope Foundation, a breast cancer support charity in Wisconsin – so helping out during the crisis just made sense to him.
“This has been unbelievably rewarding! Never in a million years would I have thought we would be making a difference like this, with these little machines and all these people working away in their basements, workshops or kitchens,” says Tom. “It’s blossomed into an incredible collection of people who are printing all over the state. Everyone wants to help.”
Tom and his fellow 3D printers are able to accept tax-deductible donations via The Einstein Project in Green Bay.
If you have a 3D printer and would like to help make face shields, please visit Tom’s Facebook group.
During these unprecedented times, BMO is living its Purpose to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life, and going above and beyond to help those who are being affected by COVID-19. Learn more about how employees are reaching out to their communities.