From copier to metal 3D printer
Text: Thomas Masuch; Photos: Vader Systems, Xerox — 11/02/2019
Xerox acquires Vader Systems to make metal 3D printing more attractive for manufacturing companies
General Electric and Hewlett Packard have shown the way: Now Xerox, another traditional US company, is entering the world of 3D printing. The company, which has around 35,000 employees, announced the acquisition of Vader Systems and its plans for additive manufacturing at the recent 2019 Investor Day.
Xerox has more than 100 years of history, often at the forefront of technological development: Xerox launched the world's first copier in 1949, followed by the first color printer in 1970, and the first laser printer in 1977.
For the company, headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, and with annual sales of approximately $10 billion, the acquisition of Start-Up Vader Systems is a relatively moderate size, as Steve Hoover, Chief Technology Officer, Technology Development and Commercialization, explained at the 2019 Investor Day. »But it's a really important one for us.« Hoover further explained that Xerox has acquired Vader Systems' technology and a handful of key employees from Xerox.
»Strong answer to meet market needs«
With the acquisition, Xerox wants to make metal 3D printing more interesting for production companies and additive manufacturing even more competitive, compared to previous production methods. According to Hoover, the high price of powder and the low production speed are currently holding back many manufacturers from using 3D printing in the metal sector. In addition, the workflow and the range of available materials are not yet sufficiently developed. Hoover explained that Xerox was therefore looking for a partner whose technology together with Xerox’s own capabilities can give »strong answers, to meet those market needs«.
Vader Systems, founded in 2013, started out with an extraordinary 3D printing process: Metal is melted in a ceramic nozzle and then falls onto the building platform in the form of liquid drops. The liquid metal droplets are generated electromagnetically by the patented Magnet-o-Jet technology. The company, led by Scott Vader and his Zachary Vader, thus promised higher production speeds and significantly lower material costs since no special AM powder had to be used.
Lower material costs
In this context, CTO Steve Hoover spoke of material costs amounting to only one tenth of current costs. At the same time, »this technology can deliver parts of metals that can’t be printed with any other printer.«
Xerox, which is also pursuing plans for plastic 3D printing, has also set itself a challenging timetable for further development, Hoover says: The product commercialization is scheduled for this year and the first application trials with customers are planned for 2020.