VA staff are always looking for better ways to care for our Veterans. Evaluating the use of the latest technology and trends is a necessary part of this effort. VA is the largest integrated health care system in the country. It not only cares for our nation’s heroes, but it is in a unique position to advance change and positively affect the way America delivers health care.

The use of 3-dimensional (3D) printing in health care is one of the many innovations VA is now focused on.

“Ear savers” for face masks

Kaila Grenier is a clinical rehabilitation engineer with VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System. She works with a variety of different departments within the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center to help meet various product needs, especially during the pandemic.

Last year, she fabricated hundreds of “ear savers” for face masks that were distributed to national logistics via the VA 3D printing network as well as employees and Veterans locally.

Replaced clips with redesign and stronger material

Grenier worked with the Biomedical Engineering Department to identify a failure point in the MaxAir CAPR Protective Helmets where the disposable face shield attaches. The side clips were weak and breaking over time when the new face shields were being replaced after use.

She was able to 3D print replacement side clips with a slight redesign and in a stronger material, preventing the helmets from going out of commission for repair.

“3D printing is a great method to address unique Veteran needs through innovative rapid prototyping and custom solutions, both quickly and in a cost-effective manner,” Grenier stated.

“3D printing an avenue to custom solutions.”

“We see a variety of Veterans with unique needs due to a myriad of injuries and disorders and 3D printing is an avenue to fabricate custom solutions when other off-the-shelf products aren’t working.”

VA’s proactive focus on 3D printing innovation ties into its broader mission of overhauling patient care with a special eye on improving patient outcomes.

VA not only stands to benefit from innovation in 3D printing and medical care but also its volume of resources and hospital network are uniquely well positioned to contribute to research into new methodologies.

This work is part of VA Center for Innovation’s VA Innovators Network to help build a culture of innovation embedded at the front lines of VA to allow employees to see and solve opportunities on the front lines to develop the best possible experience for Veterans.

Learn more about the VA Innovators Network.


Rob Bingham is an innovative specialist at the Denver VA.

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