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    K of C Employee Saves Lives with 3D Printing

    Manager at K of C headquarters has turned his hobby into a lifesaving measure in service to Connecticut hospital workers

    4/24/2020
    Jim Wadle and his 3D printer
    Image courtesy Jim and Sarah Wadle

    Jim Wadle, manager of Production Applications Support and Services at the Knight of Columbus Supreme Council headquarters, has turned his hobby into a lifesaving measure in service to Connecticut hospital workers.

    It began on March 31, when Jim’s wife, Sarah, spotted an Essex Library Facebook post stating UConn Health was looking for area hobbyists who have 3D printers. More specifically, they needed 3D printers capable of using 1.75mm PLA* media to help print mask adapters for hospital staff working with infected COVID-19 patients.

    Knowing her husband had a 3D printer, she immediately shared the information with him.

    Jim, who purchased his 3D printer about two years ago as a hobby, is a self-described "tinkerer by nature."

    Once he got the news from Sarah, he wasted no time in reaching out to UConn Health's Keith Petit (petit@uchc.edu), who had put out the initial query. Keith quickly replied with files for two different designs that are currently being used at UConn Health and offered to send supplies.

    The mask adapters are composed of a frame with spikes that allow for mask material, such as surgical fabric, to be attached. With these, UConn Health can use masks where the elastic no longer functions.

    “I told Keith that I could start printing out the more versatile spiked versions of the parts immediately and volunteered to utilize the PLA stock I already had at my home," said Jim.

    Printed mask parts.
    Image courtesy Jim and Sarah Wadle

    He began printing on April 2. The need turned out to be so immediate that a representative from UConn offered to drive to his home in Ivoryton to pick up the first batch of 30 frames on Monday, April 6.

    As of last week, Jim has developed a routine that allows him to print one frame every 30 mins or so. He uses a heated bed to assist with adhesion of the PLA, which takes several minutes. After that, the printer needs a few minutes to heat up the nozzles again.

    “Now that I am working from home in the same space that my 3D printer is located, I can easily monitor and start jobs quickly throughout my workday," Jim explained.

    As of Monday, April 13, he had another 50 parts ready.

    Jim Wadle has worked for the Knights of Columbus as the manager of productions application support for almost five years and is a member of the local Essex council as a lecturer. He is also a veteran of the CT Air National Guard, with 14 years of service.

    ADDITIONAL INFO:

      • STL files are a 3D-printing file format. These files are the 3D models, which another program needs to "slice" in order for the printer to be able to read and print each layer/slice.
      • PLA stands for polyactic acid, which is derived from sugar cane and biodegradable. This is especially important given that these frames are more than likely intended for single use.
      • Typical 3D printers operate in the range of 180-230 degrees Celsius (350 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Special thanks to Jim and his wife, Sarah Wadle, for sharing the text from which this story has been adapted. Share your own story of how you are helping the community by emailing knightline@kofc.org.

    Published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s monthly archives, click here.

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