Ian van Zyl: If he can’t find the right machine for a job, he builds one

Ian van Zyl: If he can’t find the right machine for a job, he builds one

If he can’t find the right machine for a job, he builds one

Maybe his love for playing with lego from an early age made Ian the 3D printing wizard he is today. Still, one thing is for sure: Ian van Zyl is a fantastic asset to the Innovus Technology Transfer team, which he joined at the beginning of the year.

Ian joined Innovus in January this year as a technology transfer specialist. Being a mechanical engineer with vast experience in this field, he is responsible for commercialising IP emanating from Stellenbosch University, specifically in the engineering faculty. He helps researchers to commercialise their research and innovations.

Ian brings six years of experience in technology transfer and has obtained his RTTP status. He is also registered as a PR Tech Eng with ECSA. He has a keen interest in engineering, especially additive manufacturing, which was the basis for his M.Eng. Furthermore, he has five years of experience in the manufacturing industry, specifically in design, analysis, and advanced manufacturing.

While working as a junior project engineer at the Central University of Technology (CUT) 's centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) unit, he specialised in 3D printing of titanium (Ti6Al4V) as part of his master's thesis. As they needed his technical skills, CUT also wanted half of him dedicated to the commercial side of the unit. So, he landed up in the university's technology transfer side, where he was responsible for the first successful commercial IP license emanating from the CUT, you may have even seen the product on the shelves of retailers. which The experience gained, eventually gave him the tech transfer skills he is now putting to great use at SU.

When Ian was little, he used to improvise with whatever Lego blocks he had, some rubber bands, and a lot of imagination to build his own version of a space shuttle or technic car, which probably worked better than the real McCoy. And until today, if Ian cannot find a machine that can do what he wants it to do, he builds it from scratch. This ingenuity led to him starting his own 3D printing business which eventually had to scale it to having forty machines – which fitted perfectly into a garage.

He even figured out how to recycle the plastic in the form that he needed to make more parts out of the recycled material. Ian is currently moving his garage factory down to his new home in Somerset West, where he, his wife, and their one- year-old daughter live.

Just before Ian decided to take on the Innovus challenge, he was part of a consortium research project which would have been the groundwork for his Ph.D. studies, where they would 3D print objects from pure platinum. This revolutionary idea

saw them having to sweep up every pinch of platinum powder when working with the precious metal to ensure zero wastage. Ian has put this complex research project - and maybe a few other great ideas - on the back burner for now to settle into his new role at Innovus. Who knows what will come out of his innovation box next?