In 2011, a restlessly creative Zack Vader, 18, dropped out of college after just one semester. He yearned to create something of his own and felt as though college was getting in the way. Five years later, we caught up with Zack and his team as they showcased the Mk1, one of only two 3D liquid metal printers in existence.
COMPANY: Vader Systems, Getzville, NY
FOUNDERS: Zack Vader and Scott (father)
BACKSTORY: “When I was working on another business idea, after I’d dropped out of college to start my own business, it needed to be 3D-printed out of metal… So that led us to realize we needed a 3D metal printer to make the products we wanted to make. That was the inspiration for this.”
CHALLENGES: “Containing the metal. Molten metal is very hot, and is actually quite corrosive. It’ll chew up a lot of different materials, including other metals, so finding the right material to hold the metal in was a big challenge. Also, containing the heat so it didn’t damage any of the other parts of the technology, or melt anything around it, or set anything on fire — that was ideal!”
FUTURE: “[The Mk1 is] a single-nozzle machine. The technology is kind of analogous to an ink-jet printer, [but] ink-jet printers have a lot of nozzles. That’s how they’re able to print quickly and have lots of resolution. So I’d like to scale these machines bigger over the next couple of years and, also, do more materials because right now, we’re just doing aluminum and it’s alloys, which is quite useful for a lot of people, but isn’t useful for everyone. Some people would like steel and titanium. So multi-materials, multi-nozzles, go bigger and go faster. That’s basically the next five years.”
Interview conducted by BuiltWorlds with Zack Vader, at IMTS 2016, McCormick Place, Chicago.