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Co-Founder and CEO
3DK Tech Limited
Co-Founder and CEO
3DK Tech Limited
From Iron Curtain to Metal Maven
The 3D printing phenomenon has come in leaps and bounds over the last decade Alexandru Tilita has been in the thick of the action, taking the latest innovations and using them for metal, which ultimately has all kinds of interesting applications. The HKUST graduate, who has been deep into manufacturing technologies since 2006, has always had a dream to innovate and push the boundaries, ever since he was a child watching the science fiction series Star Trek – The Next Generation. With its trademark motto "To boldly go where no one has gone before", the show pushed the young Alexandru to be first a researcher, and then a CEO.
This drive to be a visionary also came from his upbringing in Romania, at the time under Communist rule, aka The Iron Curtain. Seeing the lingering effects that the dictatorship had on the economic conditions of the young democracy, Alexandru strove for more, and sought to take control of his destiny, and chart his own path. "I had a feeling that Asia and Hong Kong would have everything I needed," he says.
Coming out to Asia
After studying for his undergraduate degree, Alexandru sought some new opportunities and signed up for a course in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he pursued a PhD degree hoping to find what the main barrier to metal 3D printing adoption is. Discovering that durability is the major barrier, and using his previous experience with non-conventional manufacturing, he invented Ultrasonic Selective Laser Melting (USLM), a patented technology that could eventually increase durability by up to 200 times. With the work becoming promising, he was briefly joined by two HKUST alumni, Ahmed Benjelloun and later, Zhong Yinsheng to establish 3DK Tech Limited, which applies Ultrasonic technology to metal 3D printing, supported by HKUST's Entrepreneurship Center and Knowledge Transfer Office.
Advances in 3D Printing
There is a sense of great timing, but also fortuity that all this had come together in the right way. Plastic 3D printing has gained all the headlines, but metal 3D printing is increasingly being used in high-value industrial production. “I do see some shortcomings in the industry, which I am seeking to address,” he says. These include excessive time needed for printing and manufacturing, poor printed part quality, and limited material selection.
'We are currently addressing these issues with our patented USLM, which use ultrasonic vibrations to control the transition of the metals from liquid into solid, thereby improving 3D printing of high-quality parts. The technology has a printing speed that is 60% faster than traditional metal 3D printing and reduces production costs by 75%," Alexandru says.
It was a proud moment when Alexandru's USLM technology won him a Gold Medal with Congratulations of the Jury at the Geneva International Exhibition in 2023. "That was incredible, but let’s not kid ourselves, we have so many challenges, one of which is fundraising," he says.
Next stop America
The challenges don’t stop him from seeking the next task: the US market. It’s been a grand journey so far, and Alexandru inspires other student entrepreneurs by his actions. "Take action, never stop learning, and continuously challenge yourself," he says.