A Cherokee County father and son are using three-dimensional printing to make much needed protective equipment for use during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hickory Flat natives Dalton and his father Darrin Luedke create non-medical grade personal protection equipment with the use of 3D printing for emergency personnel across the country.

“The equipment that we are making is not certified and is not medical grade,” Darrin said. “We just wanted to create an alternative because finding medical equipment like masks are becoming hard to find.”

The father and son duo are making plastic face masks that are made from Hepa filters. They sanitize the plastic part and replace the filter, which in turn creates a mask. They also create face shields, which are plastic splatter guards that protect the face, and straps that work with a normal surgical mask. The straps take the mask off the medical personnel’s ears and, instead, wraps it around the head, alleviating the pressure on the ears that normal masks can cause, Dalton said.

The Luedke’s use Facebook as the basis of their operation, with requests and donations made through Facebook. The donations that are sent to the family helps to pay for 3D print supplies like the plastic filament, and other items needed to assemble the equipment. There is no cost for the masks or strap.

Shipments have been made to medical personnel throughout not only Georgia, but the country as well, with shipments being made to Louisiana, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, to name a few.

Darrin first caught word of the masks being made via 3D printing by Mark Causey, a dentist in Cumming, who helped to create the website firedbycorona.com. The Luedkes are members of the website.

“We got into this after I heard about Mark Causey and how he designed a 3D mask,” Darrin said. “I got in contact with him and got a stereolithography file that contains the 3D rendering that let Dalton print the masks out. Through that website we began printing masks. We also print masks through my personal and business network.”

Three-dimensional printing is not a new concept for the family as Dalton, who Darrin says is the mastermind behind the operation, has acquired 3D printing as a hobby over the past few years.

“Dalton got interested in 3D printing about four or five years ago,” Darrin said. “He taught himself about the technology that’s involved and then, through a class at Sequoyah High School, he learned about 3D design.”

Dalton added that Sequoyah started offering 3D modeling and design classes a couple of years ago. He took those classes because of his growing interest in 3D printing. Dalton goes into detail about what he learned and the process of 3D printing.

“3D printing is an additive manufacturing process,” he said. “This means that you can basically design a 3D model and the printer will print it layer by layer, from bottom to top. The layers are extremely small and each time it moves up it slightly changes it so that, as you rise up, each layer stacks on top of the other. The layers are anywhere from 0.5 millimeters to 0.05 millimeter. The printer uses plastics called filament, which is added to the printer. It usually takes around four hours to make the mask.”

Dalton has made a real difference thanks to the skills and knowledge he has gained over the years and says that as long as he and his father have access to the materials needed to create the masks and there is a need, they will continue to make the supplies.

Their Facebook page can be reached by following at www.tribuneledgernews.com.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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