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Here’s how two Vale employees are fighting COVID-19 in 3D

May 13, 2020

Dale Loder, senior chemist in Long Harbour, NL, wearing one of the 50 face shields he’s been 3D printing from home for essential workers. Photo: Dale Loder.

How do our colleagues across Canada respond to the current crisis? Well, we can state with full conviction and great pride that two – Dale Loder, senior chemist, Long Harbour, NL, and Paul Graham, logistics specialist, Toronto – are Making it Happen by 3D printing non-medical-grade face shields, and creating other items, to donate to health care workers and those working in other essential services. 

Giving back in Newfoundland

Dale Loder sends out his re-usable 3D printed face shields with detailed cleaning instructions. Photo: Dale Loder.

“My son, Evan, who is 19, is a pharmaceutical student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He brought to light that there is a certain niche in our community that doesn’t have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) like smaller medical clinics and pharmacies that have to do routine injections,” said Dale.  

With Vale’s approval, Dale brought his lab’s 3D printer home to do work projects, and researched online to find patterns for face shields and ear protectors. The latter are small straps that hook onto elastic mask loops, around the back of the head, to prevent ear irritation. (Vale News wrote a story about Dale and his lab team, which also featured the aforementioned 3D printer.)

For face shields, the headband piece is 3D printed, and then fitted with a hard, clear plastic that is permanently attached, and easy to disinfect. 

“Living on an island, it was difficult to get the materials I needed,” said Dale, but with lots of online research, he was able to source them. That left just one problem to solve: “I needed the tools, since I was working from home.” The solution: Make them himself, using the 3D printer. 

Dale also reached out to his contacts in the health care sector, where he had worked for many years, to find out where the need was greatest.

Nathan and Matthew Graham wear sample scrub caps they helped sew with their dad, Paul. Keep reading for Paul’s story below. Photo: Paul Graham.

“So far, 70 face shields have been deployed, and I’m now over 600 ear protectors, which have gone province-wide. I’ve sent them to the tip of the Northern Peninsula, the West Coast, and locally of course. The costs are covered by our company, which is great, Vale has been happy to help out,” said Dale, adding, “The 3D printer has pretty much been running 24/7!” 

A trip through a Tim Horton’s drive-through even led to an impromptu donation.

“I noticed that the Tim Horton’s staff were all wearing surgical masks so, I asked if they’d like some of the ear protectors I’d been making. I had 20 in the truck and, later, they asked for a few more.”

The store owner was so appreciative, and his staff so grateful, that Dale will now be printing 150 more ear protectors to cover all the employees in six locations.

“I’m delighted that I’m able to make a small difference to help during these difficult times,” he said.

A health care worker wearing one of the scrub caps and ear protectors made by Paul Graham. Continue reading for Paul’s story, below. Photo: Paul Graham.

Helping Ontario health care workers

Paul Graham from our Marketing department in Toronto happened to have his own 3D printer at home, so he asked friends and family in health care what they needed.

“Our family has had a lot of health issues in the past and we’ve had a lot of support from our health care workers,” said Paul, “so we wanted to give back and show some support for the people we know are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us.” (Click here to read a story about Paul did after his wife was in a serious car accident.

An engineer by training, Paul originally took up 3D printing as a hobby, making a range of items – from headphone holders for coworkers and phone charging stands to toys for his sons – Nathan, 6, and Matthew, 2.

Toronto logistics specialist Paul Graham sews scrub caps for health care workers, with the help of his sons Nathan and Matthew. Photo: Paul Graham.

When the pandemic hit, Paul reached out on social media to friends in health care asking what they needed. To date, Paul has created 50 face shields (buying supplies with his own funds) for physiotherapists at his local hospital and for other essential businesses, and 100 ear protectors, which he distributed to hospitals across the GTA and an Oakville nursing home. “I sent my local hospital a small sample of ear protectors with an offer to make more,” said Paul. “They just emailed me back asking for more.”  

He has also sewn more than 30 scrub caps and distributed them to hospitals in Brampton and Toronto.  He’s been coordinating his efforts with volunteers at his church, who’ve sewn hundreds of scrub caps and cloth masks for local hospitals, nursing homes and vulnerable members of the community. 

This community-minded generosity clearly runs in the family. As an aside, Paul shared that some of his cousins have sewn 250 scrub caps for the entire ER, ICU and cleaning staff at a Newmarket, ON-based hospital. 

“There are a ton of people out there trying to help, so sharing our knowledge and resources and ideas of what works best helps us all get more efficient,” said Paul.

“People send me pictures of themselves wearing the face shields, scrub hats and ear protectors when they’re all geared up at work, and it’s nice to know it’s helping somebody in their day-to-day job, that these small things we’re able to do are appreciated.”

This photo collage was posted on Facebook by a NL healthcare professional, as a thank you to Dale Loder, with this message: “I want to say a big thank you to Dale Loder and his employer Vale NL for donating and sending me ‘ear savers’ for all of us at Western Health laboratories!! These are easily wiped and disinfected and certainly provide great comfort to our ears while working during the pandemic!” Photo: courtesy of Dale Loder.

How to help

For others who are keen to pitch in and help, both Dale and Paul recommend reaching out to personal networks and local community to see where the need is.

“Try to find somebody who’s doing something locally and join with them,” said Paul. “Reach out to people or groups who are already doing something and coordinate with them to combine your efforts.”

Dale agrees: “Use your network and the knowledge that you have out there and people will generally come to you. The need is close to home, in our backyard, and not always the frontline medical workers but any of these essential employees – so whatever we can do to help make those people safe, I believe it is our obligation to do.” #ValeProud

Readers: Please consider sharing this news with your social networks, and include the hashtag:#ValeProud. 

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