This past March, Westminster Tool began 3D printing ear protectors in response to the state of Connecticut requiring the use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Using this online template, we began making small amounts for local nursing homes who were looking to help provide relief to their essential workers from the constant pressure face masks placed on their ears.
With the requirements for wearing face masks continuing, and with the knowledge that more people would be in need of ear protectors, we decided to utilize our equipment and resources and design a mold for producing larger quantities of these ear protectors to donate to the community.
The 2-cavity tool with a cold runner was designed and manufactured in just one week. The tool build, from the milling process through assembly, was entirely built by one of the newest members of our team, Anthony Strmiska.
Anthony started with us in January of 2020. After completing his onboarding in the production area, he recently moved to running the soft mill machines on the CNC line. This tool build for the ear protector mold is his first big project as part of the Westminster Tool team.
One of the biggest challenges Anthony ran into during the build was solved by remaining dynamic and adapting throughout the process. During the initial run of the mold, the parts were not ejecting as planned. After the first run, we found out we needed to add two more ejector pins that we did not expect to need in our original design. By working with the mold designer, they were able to quickly identify the challenge and come up with a solution that had the mold ejecting parts as intended with little rework.
We promote cross-training so that each member of our team can gain a better understanding of the entire process, from design through manufacturing and into molding. Anthony shared his biggest takeaway from the project: “I learned a lot about the cavity designs and the reasoning for a lot of the draft angles and all the vent groves in the parts which gives me a much greater understanding for the functionality of the molds.” He will be applying this knowledge to future builds to help better serve his internal customers in the toolmaking and molding areas of the shop.
So far, we have molded and donated 10,000 ear protectors. it has been a great way to get involved as a company in helping our community. Our team has enjoyed donating to friends and family, each choosing a recipient and either shipping or hand delivering ear protectors with handwritten thank you cards to show their appreciation to all essential workers in the community. Some places we have donated to so far are Villa Maria Nursing & Rehabilitation, Plainfield Fire Department, and the Backus Plainfield Emergency Care Center, and that list keeps growing.