Tanya Little, owner of Envision Denture Centre in South Surrey, is using a 3-D printer to creat ear protectors for health-care workers and others working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)

South Surrey denture clinic producing ear-protectors for frontline workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Envision Denture Centre’s 3-D printer can create 48 protectors in an hour

The owner of a South Surrey denture clinic is re-purposing her office equipment in an effort to give back to frontline workers in the community during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past few weeks, Tanya Little, owner of Envision Denture Centre, has been using the centre’s 3-D printer – normally used to create dentures and other dental appliances and models – to create ear protectors for health care workers and others currently working on the front lines during the ongoing crisis.

Ear protectors assist in keeping medical masks close to a person’s face while taking pressure off the backs of the ears, where the mask’s elastic bands would normally rest.

As a result of COVID-19, Envision has been closed since March 17, and Little and her husband, Trevor, had to cut short a vacation themselves as a result of the virus, returning home and spending the next two weeks quarantined in their home.

It was on a trip to the grocery store at the conclusion of their 14-day quarantine that Little realized the ear protectors would be helpful for not just hospital workers, but also those working in seniors homes, grocery stores and pharmacies.

It’s those workers for whom wearing a face mask full-time is a big adjustment, Little noted.

“For myself, in the dental industry, I’m used to wearing a mask all day long. It’s not an issue for me. But (for others)… it’s something they’re not used to wearing, and it can hurt behind the ears,” she said.

“You start to realize these people who are working behind Plexiglas, they don’t really have protection. I thought, ‘You know what, we need you guys around as frontline workers, too.’”

The ear-protectors have been delivered to employees at Peace Arch Hospital as well as to senior-care workers at Amica Senior Lifestyles residential facility in South Surrey, and to employees at Save on Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart and Nature’s Fare Market, along with customers in each business, too.

“They were really well-received,” Little said.

Envision’s 3-D printer can produce 48 ear protectors in just over an hour, and though the cost to produce them is quite high because the materials have to meet various industry and Health Canada standards. Tanya told PAN that the clinic is current working with their material supplier to send more basic materials for the ear protectors, which would make them cheaper to produce.

Envision is the latest local company to shift gears in an attempt to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Breweries and distilleries in the area have started producing both hand sanitizer and surface-cleaner.

“Companies have been forced to redefine their business models to get through this time. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have that ability so we’ll have to wait to re-open until it’s safe to do so,” Little said.

Not one to seek out credit or praise for her actions, PAN only found out about Little’s effort after receiving an email from her husband, who thought her “selfless, generous actions” were worth noting publicly.

With her business currently closed, Little has also spent time handing out face masks to seniors across the Semiahmoo Peninsula, as well as delivering Easter flowers to local seniors homes and other care-packages – with masks, ear protectors and gift cards – to other front-line workers around the Peninsula.


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