3D printing by the Vader Systems’ liquid metal 3D printer works by melting an aluminum strand at 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit.

When an engineering student couldn’t find the 3D parts he needed for a project, he decided to take matters into his own hands. With the mindset of building the foundations of a metal printer, he intended to create something that could revolutionize the manufacturing process.

Metal printing isn’t news, but current machines use powdered metal to print. This powder is then put together using an electron or laser beam. Vader Systems’, however, has a 3D printer the uses liquid metal instead.

The Inspiration

Founder Zack Vader first got the idea for a liquid metal 3D printer when he was a 19-year-old student at the University at Buffalo while trying to build a micro turbine generator.  He attempted to hire a company to 3D-print the parts, but when plans fell through, he made his own printer. This printer exposed melted metal in a confined chamber with an opening facing a pulsed magnetic field. Pressure is created to eject metal liquid droplets to be formed into whatever size or shape needed.

Now 24 years old, Zack continued working on his invention at home, but ran into some technical issues. He sought the help from the University at Buffalo. Vader Systems became a paper of the START-UP NY entrepreneurial program. The company received financial support from UB’s National Grid, Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology, and Center for Industrial Effectiveness grants. The company also got three mechanical engineering graduates from UB as interns.

3D Printing With Steel

Prepared to move full force ahead, the Vader Systems’ liquid metal 3D printer is making advancements. It works by melting an aluminum strand at 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit. Once liquefied, the metal passes through a ceramic tube and comes out of a sub millimeter orifice. It drops onto a heated platform that moves to create 3D shapes by layering the liquid deposits.

Zack’s father says there are plans to modify the liquid metal 3D printer to add a nozzle that will speed up the printing process. Vader Systems plans to work with liquid steel, melting and printing it at 2,552 degrees Fahrenheit.

At the moment, Vader Systems is operating out of a factory to build its liquid metal 3D printers. As the business grows,  the Vaders plan to have an assembly line manufacturing facility, giving them enough room to expand.

Zack may have initially needed a 3D metal printer to build a microturbine generator but his work provides much more promise than than. Already catching attention, an automotive parts manufacturer has already expressed interest in acquiring at least 50 of the liquid metal 3D printers. If fitted with multiple nozzles, a printer is estimated to cost over $1 million.



3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, News