Faces of Manufacturing: Brian Bischoff of Copprium, Inc.

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Copprium, Inc. of Buffalo, New York is developing electrically-conductive copper inks that perform better and cost less than the silver inks that are used in printable flexible electronics. Brian Bischoff, Copprium’s founder, is an inventor who’s yet to reach 30 years of age, but the Staten Island native and University of Buffalo (UB) graduate is already building his second successful tech company.

Powerful Partnerships

 
If Brian Bischoff’s name sounds familiar, it might be that you remember him as a co-founder of Innosek, which partnered with UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences on a FuzeHub Manufacturing Grant in 2020. Innosek continues to provide innovative additive manufacturing services, but Bischoff became even more intrigued with an idea from one of the UB professors that he’d collaborated with.

In a separate project, Bischoff then worked with Professor Shenqiang Ren of UB’s Department of Chemistry on conductive copper inks. In addition to medical wearables and flexible electronics, applications for copper-based inks include radio frequency identifier (RFID) tags, antennas, shielding against electromagnetic interference (EMI), solar panels, and heated seats in cars.

Conductive silver inks can be used in many of the same applications, but customer discovery revealed a significant marketplace need for an alternative. UB invited Bischoff to license its technology, and Copprium’s conductive copper inks are now patent-pending. Today, Bischoff says, “We have a really good pipeline of potential customers” and will be ready to make and sell products soon.

In part, that’s because UB’s Department of Chemistry partnered with Copprium on a FuzeHub Manufacturing Grant for a manufacturing scale-up. Although there are New York State companies that have won multiple FuzeHub awards, Brian Bischoff may be the only person to enjoy the R&D benefits of two different FuzeHub Manufacturing Grants at two different companies.

Conductive Copper Inks

 
Today, the market for all conductive inks is $4B per year. Silver inks make up 70% of that market, but silver is a precious metal that’s subject to considerable price volatility. By contrast, the price of copper has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years. The form-in-place product that Copprium is preparing to sell can be applied to flexible substrates and offers important performance advantages.

For example, Copprium’s conductive copper inks are solderable but silver inks are not. That’s important in the electronics industry, where soldering is used to bond components and provide electrical connections. Unlike silver inks, Copprium’s conductive copper inks are also capable of sintering, a thermal process that causes liquid to solidify, at low temperatures.

In addition, Copprium’s copper-based inks resist corrosion and oxidation. Plus, they’re compatible with traditional equipment for screen printing, direct writing, aerosol jetting, and related printing technologies. Because these inks can be used in a non-inert environment, the presence of reactive gases won’t produce chemical reactions. They’re also shelf-stable and shippable at ambient temperatures.

Checking All the Boxes

 
“We check all of the boxes,” Bischoff says of Copprium’s products. He could easily say the same of his own professional career. After graduating from UB with a degree in industrial engineering, Bischoff worked for Sumitomo Rubber USA, which makes tires at a former Goodyear facility in Buffalo. Bischoff then left Sumitomo to work as an engineering manager for another firm while he started Innosek.

Today, he’s back at Sumitomo as an off-shift maintenance supervisor and engineer. When he’s not managing all of the plant’s electrical and mechanical requirements, he runs Copprium from a UB-owned satellite building. The heavy-duty schedule leaves him time to “sleep on the weekends”, he jokes, but understanding how big manufacturing lines work will benefit his business.

Buffalo Business First has named Brian Bischoff to its 30 Under 30 List, and he’s served as a Board Member of the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance and as a part-time Additive Manufacturing Instructor for the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology. For other inventors and entrepreneurs, Bischoff offers the following advice. “Every roadblock is not a stopping point,” he says. “Keep on pushing and learning.”

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