Greg Babe always dreamed of running a successful corporation. He knocked that off his to-do list in 2012 when he retired from Bayer Corp. at 55, at the pinnacle of a successful career.
Looking for a new entrepreneurial challenge, he joined his two sons at Orbital Engineering as CEO. When Orbital proved a less than perfect fit for them, they went their separate ways. Liquid X Printed Metals Inc.
, a Pittsburgh startup in stealth mode, hired him a month later in July of 2013.
“I spent 36 very enjoyable and successful years at Bayer,” says Babe. “I went from 16,000 (employees) to six. That sort of puts some scope on it.”
Richard McCullough and John Belot, both CMU professors, founded Liquid X in 2010; Bill Newlin, chairman of Sewickley-based Newlin Investment Co., was the startup’s first outside investor. The company raised $1.4 million from seven investors in May, including McCullough and Andrew Hannah, CEO and co-founder of Plextronics.
The key to Liquid X is in the makeup of the metallic ink, explains Babe. The composition and viscosity is unlike anything else on the market. While other inks are thick—composed of particles and flakes—Liquid X is so refined it will work with a common inkjet printer.
“This means we can use less metal (gold and silver) than competing technologies,” explains Babe. “It saves money for our customers.” Metallic inks are a billion dollar industry used for touchscreens, medical devices, consumer electronics and printed radio-frequency (RFID) tags.
Liquid X has the added bonus of being an attractive ink for the growing additive manufacturing industry, Babe says. Rather than coating a surface and removing what is needed during printing, products are printed without the waste of the subtractive process.
Liquid X, based in Harmar, is next door to Plextronics, another local inkmaker. The location is intentional. McCullough was co-founder and chief scientist of Plextronics and Newlin is a director.
The two products couldn’t be more different, notes Babe. Plextronics is creating organic electroactive inks for a variety of applications ranging from alternative power sources such as solar to lightweight battery applications. Liquid X is an inorganic product used for printed circuitry.
“There is an existing market out there, one we don’t have to create,” says Babe. “It’s very exciting.”
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Greg Babe, Liquid X