By Jared Janzen
HALSTEAD—When sales to Bobbi Barton’s business began to drop off because of COVID-19, she didn’t see it as a problem. She saw it as a chance to help.
“I knew sales would go down some but I wasn’t sure how much,” she said. “Luckily, I had this opportunity to help out with medical needs.”
In the past few days, the Halstead woman has gone from printing custom cookie cutters for her business, Bobbi’s Cutters, to printing face shields that can be used to protect doctors, nurses and others from spreading viruses.
Out of the thirty 3D printers Barton uses to make cookie cutters, she’s now dedicated half of them to printing the headbands for face shields. As of Monday afternoon, they’d printed 350, including 225 that she had already delivered to Newton Medical Center.
“I knew the need was there, so I reached out to a friend at Newton Medical Center,” she said about getting started with the idea.
Initially when Barton reached out to the hospital about how she could help, she had been thinking of printing facemasks, but after meeting with staff, they decided the shields would work better for printing.
“I took several over on Friday and they approved the design, so from then on we’ve started printing,” she said.
It takes 45 minutes for one headband to be printed. The shield over the face is made from the same sort of film transparencies used for overhead projects, which Barton ordered off Amazon. Depending on the size of the printer, she can make from two to eight headbands back-to-back before the printer needs to be reset.
Her husband, Guy, has also been helping with the project while he’s furloughed from his normal job.
Barton had posted about the project online last week, and since then she said she’s had requests for face shields from all over the U.S. She’ll be sending 20 face shields to a respiratory therapist in New York whose workplace had been using badminton glasses for protection.
Another friend of hers requested a face shield for her mother to use when going to the hospital for chemotherapy. Previously she had been using a mask fashioned from a pool noodle.
“It’s amazing what people can come up with,” she said.
Some of her other requests so far include firefighters in Wichita, a hospital in Andover and some plumbers.
The printed headband portion can be easily disinfected and reused repeatedly. Barton thought the transparent shield could also be disinfected and used more than once as well.
Barton started her cookie-cutter business five-and-a-half years ago. She had taken a few cake-baking classes but said when you mess up a cake, that leaves too means too much product going to waste. So she tried her hand at cookie decorating instead.
“And I fell in love with it,” she said.
Her first custom cookie cutter was a grasshopper shape requested by a friend. She posted the final product online and got 20 more requests for it.
Since then her business has grown to offer about 1,900 designs to a worldwide market, and she employs three people not counting herself or her husband.
Some of her most popular designs right now are some flower-shaped cutters designed by a friend’s business, The Floured Kansas.
Barton noted that March had started as a really good month for the business before COVID-19 began disrupting everything.
“We had just been to a Cookie Con in February in Kentucky, so we always get a lot more business after that,” she said. “Sales had been looking really busy.”
But now, with so many large events being canceled due to restrictions on gathering sizes, that translates to fewer orders for custom cookies.
Barton said she plans to continue printing face shields for as long as she can manage to buy materials. She predicted they’d probably do somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 altogether.
She asked that anyone interested in aiding her efforts simply support her business, Bobbi’s Cutters.