Dan Gelbart

Rapidia is the only Canadian manufacturer of metal 3D printing systems. The Rapidia system provides the fastest turnaround time (under 24 hours from drawing to finished part) and the smallest number of manual steps. The Rapidia system is easy to use and can operate in a normal office environment. Being 100 per cent water-based, it is environment-friendly.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m what you would call a “serial entrepreneur”. Rapidia is the sixth company I’m involved with in B.C. Some of the companies I co-founded reached a significant size, like Creo which employed 4,000 people when it was sold to Kodak for $1 billion. These companies were usually based on devices I patented. Overall, I accumulated 145 U.S. patents.

My background is in electrical engineering, but over the years I was also involved in developing products for telecom, optics, printing, medical devices and metal 3D printing. What got me into most lines of work was my personal interest in the technology.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Be less optimistic. People who start companies are usually optimistic (there are no pessimistic inventors), but this can be dangerous when estimating the duration and cost of projects.

What problem does your business solve?

3D Metal Printing
The Rapidia System

3D printing complex metal parts using the simplest process.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

There is a general movement to “digital manufacturing”, and metal 3D printing is a central pillar of this new approach. The problems digital manufacturing (sometimes referred to as “Industry 4.0”), and in particular 3D printing is trying to solve are:

  1. Manufacturing without tooling allows rapid changes, short supply lines, low inventory and complex parts not possible with previous methods.
  2. Digital manufacturing requires some computer skills, which every young person seems to have, but does not require much traditional machining and toolmaking skills, which are harder to find. You can learn to operate a 3D printer in one to two days versus several years to become a toolmaker.

What is your magic sauce?

The magic is a process based on metal powder plus water rather than metal powder plus polymers. The water evaporates during printing and the printed object is ready for sintering without the delays and chemicals other systems require to remove the polymers.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

The plan is to popularize our system and develop new products in the same field.

The low cost of R&D in Canada, plus the generous government help (SRED, IRAP, etc.) allows us to take on ambitious development projects. We developed the current system for a fraction of the cost spent by our competitors, and we can afford to dedicate a large part of the company to ongoing R&D in metal 3D printing.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge was Covid-19. For two years, potential customers could not come to see the system and we could not travel to install systems, thus sales dropped to zero.

How can people get involved?

As usual, anyone interested can learn more at www.rapidia.com. In particular, our system is of interest to educational institutions because of the simplicity and inherent safety of our system.