Not all heroes wear capes. Or flying suits of armor that can take the user to suborbital altitudes.
Yes, Chad Youngblood’s titanium is plastic. His ballistic mesh is the motivation to provide for his family. His repulsor jets are the PVC piping giving his 3D-printed Iron Man suits structure.
Youngblood is Hacker Lab’s in-house “Iron Man”, making wearable suits from 15 3D-printers he bought and maintains inside the Rocklin Lab, Hacker Lab Powered by Sierra College.
Youngblood spoke with Hacker Lab about trajectory at Hacker Lab, what motivates him to pursue a superhero side-hustle and how community builds personal empowerment.
He sold his first suit last year for $6,000 — this year, he’s making one for a children’s charity.
Michael at Hacker Lab: Why Iron Man? Your pieces come out great — but why him?
Youngblood: When I saw Robert downey Jr., it was love at first sight. ‘This guy fits my profile,’ I thought. He’s like a phoenix. You’ve got this loser and he’s not settling to be one. He wants to be an inspiration; anyone can become anything you want.
A year and a half ago, I was working at Pepsi as a merchandiser/seller stocking product. I was tired of using my braun; once you reach a certain age you want to use your brain. I was working at Pepsi-Cola in my day job and coming in here at night.
Quite honestly, I was going paycheck to paycheck. I needed a solution - so I went into Best Buy and saw a 3d printer. I started designing them and now get $6k for them.
I know what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck, eating ramen every week. Be weird. Don’t feel like you need to blend in. If you’re willing to stand alone people will follow you.
I want people to see my work and be inspired. That’s what Iron Man means to me.
Michael: What is your perspective on the entrepeneur’s journey? What helped you?
Youngblood: I was cursed with ADD, or so I thought when it made me different as a kid. Now, I embrace it. You can embrace who you are as your superpower; it will be your greatest strength.
It’s all a matter of how much you want it. You’re not alone; you’ve got people with the same kind of drive and mentality. Be the best person you can be.
Never have before in my life to make a business before.
I had to take care of my family.
Michael: How did come to find Hacker Lab?
Youngblood: I was down in midtown at a ramen shop in Safeway on R Street.
This guy walks in, I can’t remember his name. He started talking about his projects at the Lab and I started going to Rocklin. It’s great here. It’s not like hey, I need to pump out something copyrighted alone, it’s the shared struggle and community we form.
When I walked in those doors, I never left. We have a great team here; I thought Rocklin would be a bunch of yuppies, but I call these people my second family.
Michael: Can you talk more about the suits?
Youngblood:My female version took almost a year and a half. Now that I have 15 3D printers, I can print them in a month.
It took me two years to build the female version of Iron man and I sold it for $6k. People are like, I need to print this tonight — I'll say, no sweat let's get it up and running.
Some of the designs I do but also exchange with do3d.com; they can render all the suits - my computers won’t render like theirs do, but they run through some of the buffers.
If it wasn’t for Eric and Gina [of Hacker Lab] I wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be successful.
Michael: Anything else on how the environment at Hacker Lab has helped?
Youngblood:It’s a viable natural resource that we need to take care of.
This guy when I first came in here had a mork and Mindy; I knew when I saw that it was home. Everyone has met here has the best interests in this space; these people blow my mind here. I know people who give down-on-their luck students $10, they’re great.
It changed my whole outlook on life - being around these kind of positive people and nobody says no around here ; they say how can we fix this - the opportunities around here are utterly amazing.
This is exactly what people need.
Michael: What should entrepreneurs know starting out?
Youngblood: The only thing I could tell them is don’t be afraid to stand on your own two feet.
Everybody’s got a dream; depending on what life can push at you it depends on how bad you want it. 3d printers can make dreams come alive.
I’m on the pursuit of not self-excellence, but to inspire - I have all these kids come through. These kids have great potential. They’re taught to be a good employee, but no one has taught them to make money or stand on their own two feet.
Michael: So, what’s your next step?
Youngblood: I'm working on the Mark 85 Iron man suit. The next step is helping out kids with cancer. It’s going to be worn at Shriner’s. I’m going to do it myself; kids don’t deserve the pain they feel there. Comic Care is a great non-profit I will partner with. Pepsi takes up 12-15 hours of my days, but this is what I'm looking forward to.