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Tampa entrepreneur 3D-prints 'COVID keys' to keep you safe when opening doors or using keypads

He also makes "mask straps" to relieve ear chafing
COVID-key
Posted at 1:03 AM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 09:26:39-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Tim Hileman doesn't leave home without his trusty "COVID key."

He uses the small plastic gizmo to open doors and on keypads at gas stations to keep his fingers and hands clean.

"I can't imagine being without this thing," Hileman says about the tiny plastic apparatus he keeps on his keychain.

The COVID key looks a little like a comb missing most of its teeth, six of the combs come in one pack. It costs about $25 per pack.

Hileman is an engineer who runs Fix 'N Fly drone repair out of his Tampa workshop.

His side projects to try to keep people safe during the pandemic are making him an unlikely star.

ABC Action News first visited his workshop back in April, when he was 3D-printing plastic mask straps to help a nurse friend. Hileman's gadget relieved chafing and pressure by pulling mask straps off the ears.

"The response to that story was fantastic," Hileman says.

He wound up printing more than 4,000 of the mask straps, donating some and selling others.

When his girlfriend challenged him to use his 3D printer to make COVID keys, he jumped on the new project with typical enthusiasm.

He is printing hundreds of COVID keys, anticipating they will be popular with both grownups and kids returning to school.

For a small fee, Hileman will send out a handful of COVID keys. For more information, click here.