by Deb Wendtland
For Christmas this year Taylor Wendtland received an empty cage from his grandfather. Ok, that is what it looked like to the uninitiated, but turns out it is a little, portable, miracle printer. In March, COVID-19 reached Wyoming and began turning it upside down. On March 22, 2020, the Billings Gazette published the link to a printing program designed by a dentist, for 3D printing medical face masks. The empty cage is actually the perfect 3D printer for printing plastic, personal protection equipment (“PPE”); such as medical grade face masks, and face shields. Sheridan Memorial Hospital tested the masks and learned that a 3D printed face mask can endure the hospital’s rigorous cleaning regiment ten times; this means one mask equals ten masks.
Enter: Wyoming inventors and entrepreneurs. Immediately after the word was out that Wyoming was short on PPEs, a great group that loosely calls themselves “Wyo Makers” formed and began conferencing first daily and now weekly. These are folks who have 3D printers, laser cutters, or other machine tool instruments. Thanks to his grandpa, Taylor is part of Wyo Makers. Sheridan's Kennon Corporation is also part of the group. In addition to sewing medical gowns and face masks, Kennon acts as the clearinghouse for orders for face masks and face shields. Kennon lets the Wyo Makers know how many masks or shields are needed by who and by when. Communities all over Wyoming have reached out to Wyo Makers, to name a few: Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette, Cody, Riverton, Lander, Jackson, Dubois, and Cheyenne.
As is typical in Wyoming, the word got out. The university, community colleges, and school districts around the state began offering their 3D printers for use by Wyo Makers. Whitney Benefits Foundation immediately purchased two printers for Northern Wyoming Community College, so that Sheridan College could begin printing PPEs. Thanks to Sheridan County School District No. 2, Taylor runs six 3D printers, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, printing face masks or shields. The district has kindly provided a room (which means electricity) and all of their spools of plastic to fill the orders assigned to Taylor. It is time consuming work. One machine can print two face shields every three hours. All of the Wyo Makers are donating their time, skill, machines and in most cases the plastic to print the PPEs. This is Wyoming at its best!
Be good to those wonderful Wyoming rancher grandpas. They know a good cage when they see one.
Deb Wendtland is a Wyoming farm girl, born and raised in Torrington, Wyoming with stints in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Bethel University, in St. Paul, MN in 1985. She received her J.D. of Law from the University of Wyoming. Deb married her law review editor in 1990 and the two practice law together in Sheridan, Wyoming. Deb is a litigator in the firm of Wendtland & Wendtland, LLP and not often enough has the privilege of practicing adoption law. Deb and Tony have two adult sons: Kit and Taylor. She has been a member of the Wyoming Governors Residence Foundation Board of Directors since October 2019.