Brooke Beery is Assistant Editor of Optometry Times®.
Gretchyn Bailey: Hi, everybody, I'm Gretchyn Bailey with Optometry Times®, and I am here with Dr. Viktoria Davis and her son Karl. Dr. Davis is in practice in Madelia, MN, and her son has undertaken a really cool project during the COVID-19 pandemic of making mask ties with his 3D printer. So, Dr. Davis and Karl, welcome! Thanks so much for joining me here.
Dr. Davis: Thanks for asking us.
Bailey: So, Karl, I understand that you're making these mask ties. How did that get started? And how are you getting the word out to optometrists? I mean, I guess through your mom, right?
Karl Davis: Yeah. So, it started with our local hospital here in Madelia. My mom had contacted them and told them that I had access to a 3D printer. So, if they needed anything made, I could try and make that. So, they contacted me and asked for 30 of the ear saver mask clips. So, I got those printed and sent them out to them.
Bailey: Thirty! How long did it take you to create those?
Karl: It took about a day to finish creating all of them. I can print about 50 of them in a day.
Bailey: Wow, that's a lot.
Dr. Davis: They print 6 at a time, and it takes about an hour and a half to print 6 of them. So, he produced about 50 of them. Seventy-five of them, I guess, for local groups here in town for the hospital and an area nursing home and some other individual providers, things like that. And then I realized that as optometry was opening up again and it looked like we would all need to wear masks as well that this was something that optometry would really be able to benefit from. So I asked Karl if he was interested in expanding his operation. And he said yes.
Karl: So, I got a video recorded and my mom put it on ODs on Facebook and Optometry Divas and within the first 4 hours, I had gotten almost 100 orders.
Bailey: Wow, in 4 hours?
Dr. Davis: And now that was about a week ago.
Dr. Davis: A week and a half ago, something like that. And now, people are still placing orders but right now you have about, how many orders?
Karl: One hundred and 52 I believe it was the first count.
Dr. Davis: All right, and how many mask clip holders?
Karl: Over 1600.
Bailey: Oh my! So, what's the largest order that you've gotten from one person?
Karl: I got an order for 230 from a university. So, I have been planning to work on that and get those out as soon as possible to them.
Bailey: When you order, are you able to specify color? Or do you take what you get with what materials you have on hand?
Karl: You pretty much take what you can get. I'm more printing these as fast as I can so that people can get them sooner rather than later. But a few people have asked for specific colors, and I've tried to deliver.
Bailey: Well, always under promise and over deliver. That's the good customer service mantra, and it sounds like you're taking that to heart. So, I assume that there is a lot of math and science and marketing. I mean, you are putting together a whole bunch of skills with this.
Karl: Yep. See, I have been trying to figure out how many I can fit on my printer, how fast I should make it so that it still turns out in decent quality, but I can get them quickly. And so we have been sending them out and trying to figure out mail times and all that complicated stuff.
Bailey: So, you have logistics, manufacturing. Wow. It is a complete cottage industry.
Dr. Davis: It is pretty amazing how much it has taken off. And one thing which has been wonderful about it, too, is that all along, Karl has said that he is not charging for the mass clips at all. But there were so many optometrists that asked if they could make donations that I set up on my office webpage a place where they could make donations for him. And his project just received almost $2,000 in donations. At this point.
Bailey: I didn't realize you weren't charging for them. That was going to be my next question. So, that's vary altruistic. Are you charging shipping?
Dr. Davis: We don't.
Karl: That's part of the reason why we put up the donations button and so that people could donate for material cost and for shipping. So, we are sending these out with first class mail now.
Dr. Davis: Yep.
Bailey: That's great. So, $2,000 in donations and were you are you using that money to offset costs and shipping, or do you have other plans for that money?
Karl: I am using it for shipping and for material costs right now, but I might buy another printer with that.
Bailey: Oh, that's a good idea. That way you can manufacturer even more. How much do 3D printers cost? I have no idea.
Karl: It really depends on what size and how good you want it to be. If you want, a small desktop 3D printer that is all packaged and works right out of the box, you can get one for like $250. If you want one that is larger, but you have to assemble it yourself, then you can get that for like $275. But if you want a professional manufacturing, high-quality printer, it can cost anywhere from $5000 to $200,000. It just depends on quality and size and all that.
Dr. Davis: The printer that he uses for most everything has two different printers. One of them is an intro level one that he has been using for the child size ones, and the other one is his main printer. And your main printer is about $400?
Karl: About $300.
Dr. Davis: About $300 to $400, something like that. I don't know if this will work or not, but that is the printer in operation. [Shows the printer]
Bailey: Wow! I love it. We are seeing it happen right there. I didn't know that you could get a 3D printer for that little amount of money.
Dr. Davis: The prices have really gone down recently.
Dr. Davis: For the printers that Karl has purchased, for holidays and things like that rather than asking relatives for presents, he has asked them for gift cards to Amazon so that he can put them all together into one basket and be able to buy a printer.
Bailey: I like that idea.
Dr. Davis: His 3D printing has definitely been something that he has a passion for. And he has been...
Karl: Expanding on that.
Dr. Davis: Yes.
Bailey: So, Dr. Davis, do you wear one of his mask clips in your office?
Dr. Davis: My office is actually not open to routine care at this point. For emergency care and things like that, the surgical masks that I have are actually tie masks rather than loop masks. So, they are ones that have ties around the heads instead of loops, so I don't need the mask holder for it. But when my staff comes back, then we have said in our reopening procedure that mass clips will be provided by Madelia Optometric.
Bailey: I love that. Well, Karl, what is your next step now that you have started this cottage industry? Are you going to expand to other specialties, or are you going to look to create something else?
Karl: So, with coronavirus, right now, I am mainly focusing on just fulfilling all the orders for mask clips. But I have also been experimenting with 3D printing face shields. So, I haven't gotten that completely figured out yet, but I am definitely working on that to see if I would be able to print those and use those to help people.
Bailey: So, would you say that that is one of your first prototypes?
Related: Telemedicine in the face of COVID-19
Bailey: We get a sneak peek at what is coming down the pike for Davis Productions.
Bailey: Well, I think this is really great. Dr. Davis, Karl, thank you so much for talking with me today and for sharing your story. I think that is wonderful that you are making these clips available for people who need them and especially at no charge. So, thanks very much and best of luck.
Dr. Davis: And if anybody does still want to place an order for any, they can visit my practice website. There is a link to a form to fill out on there, which is www.madeliaeyes.com, and you can click on the link there and he will be happy to continue to fulfill orders.
Bailey: I am glad you said that because I was going to ask you if, if people can still place orders and put that information below the video, and I didn't want to ask on camera in case the answer was no. So, I am glad that you put that information out there. So, get ready, you might get another deluge of orders.
Dr. Davis: That would be great.
Bailey: Thanks to you both.
Dr. Davis and Karl: Thank you.