What’s the story, Mr. Otto?

Printing to protect others

To meet the huge demand for visors needed by intensive care doctors during the coronavirus pandemic, technician Philipp Otto repurposed the 3D printers at the Deutsche Post branch in Hagen, Germany, to produce them.

FINE PRINT: Trainer Philipp Otto (right) and trainee Julian Dworaczek (left) produce protective visors on 3D printers.

I work with my trainees in the operating systems technology department in Hagen. We have two 3D printers running 24/7. Until recently, they used to manufacture spare parts for letter and parcel center sorting machines. That was before the advent of the coronavirus.

When the crisis hit Europe, everyone was aware of how hard medical staff were working, and how desperately they needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe while caring for coronavirus patients. The close contact they had with those infected with the virus put them at serious risk of infection.

I got my idea during the March vacation, which I had to spend at home due to the corona pandemic. I heard that, in addition to other protective equipment, hospitals were in urgent need of visors to protect healthcare professionals from possible infection. A friend of mine suggested that we could produce them on a 3D printer right here at the branch. I was immediately intrigued with the idea and decided to figure out how we could do it. We found the template for the visor on the internet. All we had to do was install a program for layer printing, and we were ready to go.


A layer-printing template was installed on the 3D printers so they could make the headbands for the protective visors


The number of layers needed to make each headband


The amount of protective visors already produced to help regional hospitals

I pitched the idea to our branch manager, Karl-Heinz Behrens, who immediately jumped on board. So I started production with my trainees. Now our 3D printers are turning out headbands for protective visors. It really is a win-win situation, because the trainees under my supervision have an opportunity to make a positive contribution, and they can learn something at the same time.

In addition to the 3D printer we already had on site, a second one was quickly added. In just four hours, the printers can create two headbands with mounting strips and studs, to which an elastic band and the transparent visor are then attached. 

In simple terms, what we’re doing makes use of the same concept as a hot glue gun. Eighty layers, each just 0.28 millimeters thick, are built up one on top of the other to produce each headband. We’ve now produced a total of 600 protective visors to help the hospitals in the region. And to top it off, the materials for each visor cost less than €2 ($2.36). — Katharina Stahl

Published: October 2020

Image: DHL