Nathan Ellerbrock Ottawa Operations

Whirlpool Engineer in Ohio Creates S-Hooks and Extenders for Medical Face Masks Using 3D Printers at Plant

Most healthcare workers are now wearing face masks during their entire shift, which puts pressure and increased friction on the backs of their ears. The chafing and discomfort felt by these heroes working on the frontlines to combat COVID-19 has been documented in the news and on social media over the course of the last couple months.

In order to help, one of the engineers at Whirlpool Corporation’s Ottawa, Ohio Operations, Nathan Ellerbrock, came up with the idea of creating “s-hooks” and “extenders” for medical face masks using the 3D printers at the plant.

“I came across a few articles about items that are being 3D printed to support medical efforts amidst the pandemic, and I went about finding printers we had available to us that we could use to help,” said Ellerbrock.

Medical Extender from 3D Printer, Whirlpool Employee

After conferring with other employees and doing some additional research, the team decided to print the mask extenders. Ellerbrock connected with the plant’s Environmental Health and Safety Lead, Jeff Linstedt, whose sister-in-law works in the Emergency Department at a major hospital in the area. They were given more than 200 of the extenders to trial within their organization.

Ottawa Plant Extends Donations to Medical Teams, Communities, and Employees

“Once things were running smoothly, I kept one printer printing straps and one printing hooks nearly continuously for about a week and a half,” said Ellerbrock. “I stopped counting, but I would estimate that we printed more than 300 straps and over 400 hooks for donation and internal use.”

Nathan Ellerbrock Ottawa OperationsAfter hearing positive reviews from that donation, the team connected with the Whirlpool Healthscope HealthCoach to reach out to other healthcare providers, including nurses, primary care offices, ambulatory care, physical therapists, and nursing homes to see if they needed the extenders as well. Those connections led to a donation of over 200 additional extenders.

“Like so many organizations and individuals in our community, Whirlpool has stepped up to support the great work of our team at St. Rita’s!” says, Beth Keehn, director of Government and Community Affairs. “Our Universal Masking policy meant that our teams were wearing masks for extended shifts and very long hours, causing headaches and ear aches. Whirlpool used their 3D printing technology to create face mask extenders, keeping our teams comfortable as they cared for our patients. We are so appreciate of Whirlpool’s generosity and commitment to the communities we serve.”

The team at the Ottawa plant plans to continue making more of the extenders to distribute beyond county lines in communities where its employees live.