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In the News

Expanding Their Web of Influence

Features 02 Sep 2020

Many frontliners and essential workers who wear face masks for prolonged periods often have to put up with skin irritations and discomfort around their ears.

Thankfully, a sympathetic group made up of five students and recent graduates from Singapore Polytechnic have come together to help ease the pain for our frontline heroes. Armed with fancy 3D printers and giving hearts, the irrepressible five designed and produced a 3D-printed ear adapter to make mask-wearing a more comfortable experience for these essential workers.

Inspired by the Marvel comic Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man, Kymberly Goh and her teammates named their group ‘The Neighbourhood Spideys’. The name conveys the amiability of their ground-up initiative and reflects the mission of the friendly neighbourhood spider-man to help those in need.

“Members of our team are either owners of 3D printers or are 3D-printing hobbyists. Upon learning about the existence of 3D-printed ear adapters online, we thought of coming together to do something for our community.” — Kymberly Goh, core team member of The Neighbourhood Spideys

The Neighbourhood Spideys was born out of goodwill and the result of a spontaneous decision by the group. Initially, the project was entirely self-funded by group members. However, as the project gained traction and demand for the ear adapters increased steadily, resource constraints began to surface. Our intrepid Spideys were unable to fulfil large orders and could only process the orders in small batches. Even the physical delivery of the 3D-printed ear adapters became a logistical nightmare.

Fortunately, kind-hearted Singaporeans stepped forward to oil the cogs. Volunteers reached out to the team and joined the initiative. Individual donors provided additional funding, some loaned their personal 3D printers to speed up production while others enlisted friends to support the project’s operations.

Despite the outpouring of support, the team recognised that the project would only be sustainable in the long run if they could secure additional funding. Luckily, a grant from Temasek Trust’s oscar@sg fund enabled The Neighbourhood Spideys to scale up their production.

“Determined not to leave anyone behind, we wanted to reach out to as many in the community as possible. At the same time, we also hope to spread a little community spirit through The Neighbourhood Spideys, so people will know that they are not alone.” — Kymberly Goh

Many frontliners and essential workers have since benefited from this initiative. Hawkers, public transport officers, staff in hospitals, schools and workers in the F&B sector – basically anyone who needs to don masks in their daily jobs has been caught by the Spideys’ compassionate web.

By mid-July 2020, The Neighbourhood Spideys had distributed more than 9,000 ear adapters to frontliners within a short span of two and a half months. There are two versions of the 3D-printed ear adapters: one that fits disposable masks and another that is suitable for reusable masks.

Currently, the team is experimenting with 3D-printing of mask visors, similar to the ones distributed to primary school students. If anything, The Neighbourhood Spideys is proof that anyone, regardless of age, is capable of making a difference.