Community innovation at its best

Community COVID-19 Featured Shine On

‘Ignite-ing help for the frontline

IGNITE Labs Inc. started a fire and MacGregor’s Industrial Group is helping to fan the flames.

And it’s all in the name of community innovation and helping frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19.

MacGregor’s Industrial Group is using 3D printing technology to make ear savers that attach to personal protective masks. The ear savers attach to the masks and wrap around the back of the head. For those who are required to wear the masks all the time, like healthcare workers, MacGregor says the ear savers will help prevent their ears from chaffing due to the elastics on the masks. The units MacGregor’s are producing are designed for the elastics on the masks to attach to, and they are adjustable.

Nick MacGregor, business development manager at MacGregor’s Industrial Group in Thorburn, says his company was approached by IGNITE to manufacture the items.

“They’ve really taken the tiger by the tail, per se, and spearheaded getting everybody who has a heartbeat and a 3D printer to get involved in this.”

Being a locally owned and operated company with a community conscience, MacGregor’s jumped on board to help.

That was several weeks ago and hundreds of the ear savers have been produced by MacGregor’s since then. The printer is able to manufacture 20-25 per day. “We’re playing around with it and trying to speed that up, but that’s pretty much what we’re limited to — the only downside is it’s a fairly slow process.”

It was serendipitous that MacGregor’s was able to get involved, having just acquired a 3D printer weeks before beginning the ear saver project. They were using the printer as a test pilot for use in production at the local facility.

MacGregor laughs, “We had zero intentions of doing anything related to COVID-19 with it, but the stars just kind of aligned,” for the company to put its equipment to use helping others.

“We’re donating them for the cause and are happy to be doing our part.”

They have provided some of the ear savers to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow and are making others available through secure contactless pickup point.

IGNITE Labs is keeping a database on those who have the ability to produce the ear savers and are willing to help.

Sebastian Green, Northern Regional manager for IGNITE Labs Inc., says there are many people across the province who want to help “whether it’s with a 3D printer or maybe they have sewing skills or laser cutters,” but there was no one co-ordinating a structured effort to get the right equipment to the right people. That’s where IGNITE comes in.

So they are working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dalhousie’s Emera ideaHUB and Enginuity, to be the lead between community and industry which, at IGNITE’s core, is what they do best.

IGNITE is Nova Scotia’s rural innovation hub where entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses work together.

Working with Nick MacGregor was what Green refers to as a “no-brainer” because of the mentorship he provides to IGNITE at its Stellarton location in the Nova Scotia Community College.

To ramp up production, Green has a 3D printer running almost non-stop in the living room of his New Glasgow home producing about 20 ear savers every hour. He is also doing sorting and packaging in his kitchen.

Green notes that it’s not just healthcare providers who need the masks. “It’s food manufacturers, food producers, grocery store workers …”

If you are an essential service provider and would like an ear saver, contact IGNITE Labs through its Facebook page to make arrangements for pickup.