3D Printers

Wisconsin start-up Zero Barrier aims to change trends in metal 3D printing

Zero Barrier, a Wisconsin-based start-up, is working on building a 3D printer that it claims will make metal 3D printing faster and cheaper.

Evan Wolfenden, co-founder and CEO of Zero Barrier, said, “By having a technology that is able to allow mass production on such a large basis, and make it affordable…I’m opening up the field to all kinds of products to enter the market.”

Operating out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Makerspace within College of Engineering (CoE). Wolfenden and his team are creating a UV-based metal 3D printer which they believe will revolutionize metal 3D printing.

Zero Barriers' team working to create a functional prototype of metal 3D printer. Image via Zero Barrier.
Zero Barrier’s team working to create a functional prototype of metal 3D printer. Image via Zero Barrier.

Metal 3D printing

Currently, 3D printing is one of the most expensive methods to make metal parts. Most metal 3D printers are high-cost laser-based systems which use special metal powders. The cost of metal powder alone can range between $50-1000 plus per kilogram (depending on the type of metal). Such factors have made the use of metal 3D printing prohibitive, especially for prototyping work. And reducing the cost of metal 3D printing has been a notable trend in recent times. 

Evan Wolfenden, a mechanical engineering senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has said that he wants to use his education to make metal 3D printing more affordable and give something back to the community. “I’ve had a world-class education at a world-class university. I have all these things available to me,” said Wolfenden. 

“So I feel like I have an obligation to do the best I can, so that I can give back to others, and build a foundation for others to follow in.”

Last year Wolfenden and Ben Farley, a co-founder of Zero Barrier, came fifth in the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge and won $5,000. The same year the start-up also won $2,000 at the Transcend Madison Innovation Competition.

This year, Zero Barrier is also a finalist in the 16th Wisconsin’s Business Plan Contest.

A Prototype of metal 3D printer by Zero Barrier. Image via Zero Barrier.
A Prototype of metal 3D printer by Zero Barrier. Image via Zero Barrier.

UV-curable metal 

Instead of a CO2 and electron laser-based systems that are mostly used in metal 3D printing, Wolfenden and his team are developing metal powder mixed with UV-curable polymer. According to Wolfenden, the metal powder by Zero Barrier will be cheaper to buy and much faster to print.

The company estimates that their system will be sixty times faster and seventeen times cheaper than any metal 3D printing system available on the market.

If Zero Barrier is successful, it could establish a new customer base for metal 3D printing. Wolfenden commented, “My future customers are going to be the smaller guys […] Students, researchers, people working out of their garage.”

Zero Barrier’s technology is still in the prototyping stage. The next step for the company is to move to a bigger facility in Madison, Wisconsin, and operate a metal 3D printing service bureau for local manufacturers.

Vote now for metal 3D printer of the year in the upcoming 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards.

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Featured image shows a prototype of metal 3D printer by Zero Barriers. Image via Zero Barriers.