OTTAWA -- An Ottawa boy who received a 3D printer for his birthday, has been using it to make and donate ear protectors for frontline workers who wear masks all day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summer camp is on for Alex Pound. He's sailing over jumps with his scooter on the pump track at The Yard Indoor Skate & Bike Park. The 11-year-old is too young to stay at home by himself but not to run a company. Luckily, he was able to get all his business out-of-the-way first thing in the morning. 

As soon as Alex wakes up, he runs downstairs and changes his prints, 3D plastic prints. He has been making ear protectors for frontline workers who wear masks all day.  Free, for anyone who needs it. 

"You loop the mask around it so it's not touching your ear," says Alex. Pointing at the light, flexible piece of plastic. "You can do that on both sides and you can put it on first setting second, third and fourth."

The ear protector goes behind the head and is used to hold the elastic straps of masks, reducing irritation. 

The printer was a gift for his 11th birthday. Building trinkets was fun at first but when COVID-19 forced health care workers into full personal protective equipment all day, he got an idea from a conversation he overheard from his mother, Dr. Catherine Pound, a paediatric physician with CHEO.

"I didn't even remember talking about that in front of him," says Dr. Pound. "One evening he came down with an ear protector and he said 'mom do you think this would be helpful for the ears of health care workers' and my jaw just about dropped and I said yes they would be and he said 'why don't you give them to people and I'll make a few.'"

Alex's mom took a handful to work and passed them around, she also posted the ear protectors on Facebook. Word spread and orders poured in. 

To keep up with demand, Alex would have to expand, he started a GoFundMe campaign. 

"In 24 hours I got about $500 which was my goal and so then we got another printer."

The addition of the second 3D printer meant Alex could double production, making 10 at a time. It also meant he had a business on his hands. He build a website and Printdemic was born.

Orders now flow through the website. 

"Like all over Canada which is pretty cool," Alex says. "And from hospitals and long term care facilities Utah in the USA and the Canadian Armed Forces."

The latter, a donation he provided to (H) Lieutenant-Colonel Sandra Perron of the Régiment de Hull. Alex worked around the clock to provide the protectors for some of the 600 care packages Perron was building for soldiers deployed to nursing homes. 

"He delivered 57 of them after only a few days," says Perron. "It was very special that he would volunteer 50 hours of his time to make these clips to let soldiers know that we appreciate and respect what they're doing and I just find that just heartwarming."

Alex never asks, or wants money, his business is strictly donation-based, however some have felt compelled to pay him. He's received more than $1,000 and it's all been donated to the Ottawa Food Bank. 

"He's helping his community in a number of ways which is beautiful," says Samantha Ingram, Ottawa Food Bank communications manager. "We are able to turn $1 donate it into approximately $5 worth of food and that money will go along way to helping approximately 39,000 people every month."

Alex has given away 2,000 ear protectors, and plans to keep printing them until people don't need them anymore. 

"I just wanted to donate them because frontline workers they work really hard to help people and that doesn't cost anything."