The era of SARS-CoV-2
We are in the midst of an unprecedented event in our lifetime. SARS-CoV-2 has forced us to restrict our travel, stop hanging out with friends and has made wearing a mask a full-time social interaction requirement. Just-in-time supply chains are being disrupted in unexpected ways and local access to materials that would allow the completion of in-progress projects has been severely restricted due to the necessary but economically painful lock-downs that have brought so many industries to a grinding halt.
The demand on specific segments of resources that would ordinarily be plentiful are currently overburdened and we haven't even talked about labor and the future impact on humans not being able to make a living.
When 300+ million people in America are on the hunt for face mask elastic, it goes out of stock real quick. And toilet paper, flour, rice, peanut butter, PETG filament and a whole bunch of other things that we all take for granted.
At this point, we need to do what we are best at, as human beings. Research, think, adapt and come up with novel solutions to novel problems.
A Company that Makes Everything™ owns three 3d printers which are normally used for prototyping but in this unique time I felt compelled to put them to good use to try and help protect health care professionals and frontline workers. Whatever we can do, it won't ever feel like enough...but every contribution matters and makes a difference. We have to believe that or there is no hope.
I'm going to cover two things.
- The volunteer and prototyping work I've been doing to generate #PPE and raise awareness about wearing masks locally.
- The quarantine projects that I've been working on to keep sane because mental health is important.
Stay home if you can, wear a mask when you go out.
The First Project, "Beautification of a home-based business, the Black Stove Blueberry Hill tiny venue"
I started to get the sense around March 4th that the states were going to have to shutter for some amount of time, perhaps for a few months to slow the spread of covid-19. I assumed that there would be business shutdowns and that we would, at minimum, be voluntarily confined to our homes.
This meant that I needed to get all the materials on site before this hypothetical but likely event occurred.
For several days, I went and collected stones, bricks, a diamond blade for my chop-saw and other miscellaneous sundries, such as a couple N95 masks so that I wouldn't inhale rock dust. I also brought in many truck loads of sand and gravel to grade underneath the brick.
The idea for this project was to beautify the area between my office and my shop, add a small venue where I can host and record tiny shows, add a sidewalk between the shop entrance and the shop driveway and add a blueberry hill. The blueberry hill was created using the dirt removed from the sidewalk and patio areas. This was an improvisation to avoid having to take the dirt to the landfill, which had been closed down to a single day of operation with lines around the block. The remainder of the dirt was used to fill three new raised garden boxes which will be used to grow cilantro, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes (i.e. salsa) and a few other experiments as well as some pollinating flowers.
This project became a good area to focus energy into. It has provided physical activity, outdoor time and a sense of accomplishment.
I removed the stones from the leaf-covered half-circle last year in preparation for this project, although I didn't know I would be completing it during a pandemic. I also pulled up the sidewalk because it would need to be matched to the height of the future tiny venue. I put out a few bricks for a rough layout. Needed to get a sense of scale to figure out how many bricks to buy.
Pardon the night photos. I generally work long into the LED hours.
Bringing in bricks for the patio. Also blocks to surround the tree behind the Black Stove. This is to match the other trees on the property for whom we've already built stone monuments.
Built the circle around the tree and a platform for the Black Stove.
The Black Stove is very heavy. I don't know what it weighs but one human must find mechanical advantages. Used a set of 4" PVC pipes under the pallet to roll it to this position.
Black Stove slid off off the pallet and onto the foot of the platform by leveraging the stove pipe.
Changing the vector of force to pull both sides onto the platform at the same rate.
Lifted onto the platform.
Rocked into place.
Paint It Black.
Start excavating the pathway to the driveway.
Laying down gravel, late at night.
Problematic sprinkler head in the new path. Traced back to source and a plan improvised.
Path temporarily excavated to reconfigure the irrigation system. Unfortunately, the sprinkler system was installed before the driveway, sidewalk or path existed and occupies an inconvenient location. Decided to remove and run two dripper heads to the left and right sides of the path for the new blueberry bushes.
Purchased some irrigation kit. A T with barbs, two drip junctions and some tubing.
Preparing for install. The system isn't on at the moment to test and will already be buried when I turn it on for the first time. I feel like teflon tape is a little bit of insurance?
Protect it with some stones.
Pathway rebuilt over the new irrigation split.
Excavating the tiny venue and moving the dirt to Blueberry Hill.
Rough excavation complete. Still lots of lilac stragglers to deal with. Also, going to need to compensate for the large tree root that changes this space's curvature.
Cleaned up and gravel added.
Sand stockpile achieved.
The path, dry fitted.
Gravel in place.
Adding landscape fabric to prevent future growth.
Sand spread over landscape fabric. The work during this section was a bit chilly due to a late snow.
Landscape fabric inserted under a top layer of sand on the new pathway.
Path back in place, top coated with sand. This method holds up very well over the years, is simple and unlike concrete, allows water to drain.
Going to need more bricks. One of many cart loads.
Cutting bricks with a diamond blade.
Filling in the cracks.
Leveling with more sand.
Don't breath rock dust or get it in your eyes. Also, a saw ripping through stone is loud. Protect your ears, podcasts and music can remain underneath, via bluetooth buds at a reasonable volume.
The puzzle is mostly complete.
Digging holes for the blueberry plants. Filled with sand and peat moss.
Landscape fabric laid over Blueberry Hill.
Start adding retaining rocks and a billion pine cones harvested from the tree that dumps pine cones on us like they're going out of style.
A few of the blueberry plants are now in place.
We may not be able to get the stones we need to finish this part of the project until after the stay at home orders are lifted in Washington, since these resources are generally scavenged by helping someone to get rid of a resource they don't want.
It looks great, even unfinished. I'm proud of myself for the visualization of what this space could be, all the way through the implementation.
In addition to the Black Stove Blueberry Hill, I decided to add three new raised beds using left over scrap from the greenhouse project.
Some plants in place. A different pollinating flower in each box.
Added brick around the boxes and walkways to fancy the beds up a bit, since they're street facing. It was great to get out in the cold, the snow, the wind and later the sun, all the while getting some practical exercise and building for the future.
The Second Project, "Prototype and create PPE"
While working on the beautification projects, I was also 3d printing PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and building some masks for myself and others. This is the Prusa Faceshield design, printed in PLA plastic. PETG plastic is preferred but since I didn't have any, I started printing this design with the PLA I had on hand.
More info about the Prusa Faceshield on Prusa's blog.
This is the RC2 design using a plastic report cover from the local office supply store.
To increase the amount of time the printer would run unattended, I added two sets.
This is revision 3.1 of the Prusa Faceshield. They made some design tweaks based on feedback and then I found a remixed 4-stack version of the model to allow the printer to run unattended overnight. This print takes about 16 hours.
Occasionally the interfacing between each faceshield frame in the stack doesn't work out quite right but amazingly, this print still finished and the top piece came out fine.
3 out of 4 isn't bad.
Sub-project "Face mask"
This is the DIY Face Mask by Mark Fuller. I like it because it is minimilist and allows a fair amount of interpretation in the implementation. I decided to use blue shop towels as people have been testing household filter materials and blue shop towels keep turning up near the top of the lists. Here is the most basic implementation but let's try a few variations.
A few frames, blue shop towel and rubber bands.
Pleat the shop towel. The future showed that this was significantly too many pleats but you get the idea.
Here, with a more reasonable number of pleats. This way we get two layers of the material with the needed expansion for your face.
Cut to size but leave some room. This turned out to be not quite enough room.
Attached rubber bands at the corners.
Thread ribbon through the holes. This second implementation is a little bit better.
To form the face, I'm going to use this mannequin. When working on PPE, I've been wearing a mask and gloves. If you are going to make PPE for others, you have to assume that you are infected so I needed a form for the next iteration of the mask.
Let's build a bigger batch this time.
Here you can see a few prototypes as they might be used.
For the next short run of masks that I'll be using when I need to go out. I'm using a glue gun to make the mask more durable and create a more durable connection between the shop towel and the mask frame.
Hot glue along the inside edge and trim the excess cloth.
With the first version, Rachel drew a silly expression since our expressions get lost when we wear a mask. Since I was going to be wearing a mask around Walla Walla prior to the CDC reversing their guidance and recommending face coverings, I wanted to try and make people comfortable with the idea.
For this version, I used rubber band shock absorbers so that the mask would pull and make a tight seal. I used twine for the loops around the ears. (This turned out to be a mistake in the form of minor rope burn.)
While 3d printing is a personal interest, sewing is probably a more accessible way of generating face coverings so I decided to sew a couple masks as well. I wanted to use only common household materials. So, I collected a t-shirt, some underwear waistband (Icebreaker, if you must know) and a few thin strips of aluminum. I did steal a few mustaches from other material to applique onto the mask because if you must do something, you should make it an expression of yourself. I am often clean shaven and sometimes I have a giant beard but I have never had a 'stache and it seemed like the perfect time.
First I cut up the t-shirt in a long rectangle, folded it in half and pinned the sides for running through the sewing machine. Then I created thin sleeves for the waistband elastic so that the t-shirt material would take the friction during movement and ease stress on the ears.
Hand-sewed the mustache on. Rachel suggested using the canning lid from a mason jar and office clips and I'm happy to report, that worked great. It is always good to be able to consult with someone who is 1000 times better at sewing than you.
I sewed the elastic to the mask and there you go, it works, it's functional. It looks like it was sewed by someone who isn't good at sewing but I wanted to make a mask using materials every person would likely have on hand. A t-shirt and an old pair of underwear for the elastic. The only thing people might not have on hand is a sewing machine or maybe even a needle and thread. In that case, there are a number of no-sew designs out there on the net. The main thing is, you can do it yourself.
Because I am not good at sewing, it took me several hours to make two masks. During that same amount of time, Rachel made all of these. To make an analogy, when I am sewing, I am like a little child playing with a toy airplane. When Rachel sews, it is more like Sullenberger landing US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson with zero fatalities.
I don't know how what I've built over the last two months stacks up in the end to help us humans deal with this covid-19 problem but I do tend to be motivated by survival and survival means helping other people survive.
And remember that mental health projects are important. You're stuck at home, figure out something you can improve and do it. You probably can't access all the resources you would be able to normally, so you're going to have to improvise but improving your home or property is always a good investment because you get to enjoy it every day.
Black Stove Blueberry Hill, which has been more than a few tons of work, in just bricks alone, has been helping to keep me sane and focused on the future which will come, regardless of what we do.
Might as well be prepared to try and enjoy it.