NRT is currently producing about 75 mask comfort products a day, with the first 300 to be delivered to Nashville hospitals May 6. | Courtesy of National Recovery Technologies (NRT).

Normally, NRT’s 3D printer is busy producing parts for optical sorters and other recycling machinery. But amid the pandemic, the company is also using the technology to make mask straps that help out health care workers.

Nashville, Tenn.-based National Recovery Technologies (NRT) is the division of recycling equipment manufacturer Bulk Handling Systems that focuses on robotics and near-infrared (NIR) optical sortation.

NRT recently posted about its around-the-clock effort to produce “ear savers,” which make wearing face masks for long periods more comfortable.

“These have helped our employees that can’t work from home continue production safely and comfortably,” according to the company. “We are currently printing hundreds to donate to our local health care workers.”

The work of NRT’s Stratasys F170 3D printer dovetails with the efforts of a Nashville-area 13-year-old, Sam Walker, who is using his home 3D printer to make ear savers for donation. NRT got in touch with Walker when an NRT employee saw a local TV news report about his efforts. Walker has his 3D printer working 17 hours a day, producing eight ear savers every 3.5 hours.

Thomas Brooks, director of technology and product development for BHS, said NRT is currently producing about 75 a day, while also 3D printing to keep up with production and R&D needs. The first 300 ear savers will be delivered on May 6 to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and St. Thomas hospital, both located in Nashville.

“We’re not stopping after the first 300 and hope to get some feedback on how many are needed and where, ” Brooks said. “We have not set a ceiling or a limit – we’re really looking to help meet a need in these uncertain times.”

The ear saver, seen in use here, provides comfort when wearing face masks for long periods.

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