Interview with EKWB – Niko Tivadar CTO
We have seen many new products from EKWB last year. The company is focused on liquid cooling systems for consumer as well as industrial purposes. The main role in development and product introduction plays the Chief Technology Officer at EK Water Blocks (EKWB) Niko Tivadar. He leads and coordinate short-term and strategic activities of R&D engineering team as well as co-create and maintain long-term development strategy.
Today we have finally managed to steal a little bit of his time to discuss about EKWB, and to get to know these guys a bit better.
When and how does the EK become EK?
It all began in the 2nd half of the first decade of this millennium. I remember the tipping point being the G80 based NVIDIA GeForce GTS/GTX 8800 graphics cards, it was our first GPU full-cover block to be sold in quantity, higher than one thousand pieces. After that the GPU full-cover water block sales started soaring and custom loop cooling became de-facto standard for a silent, high performance gaming PC.
How long have you been Chief of R&D / CTO by EKWB?
Officially around 15 months, but unofficially for about 3 years now.
What is the most important/interesting part of your job for you?
Most important part of my job is to keep my R&D team focused, to balance their workload and creative timeout. Being an R&D engineer at EK is not an easy job, sometimes it can be very stressful since the lead times are extremely short. Also our team members are very unique individuals therefore a personal approach is required. However the most interesting part is designing completely new products and finding new ways to do things. It’s very rewarding to look back and see how we evolved over time.
Have you been also to case modding in past?
Not really. I come from a generation of water coolers where function was always more important than design. Back then there was no retail shops, most of the parts were home made or obtained from scrapyard.
When did you liquid cooled or LN2 for the first time?
I built my first liquid cooled setup in 2003. First liquid nitrogen OC session was back in 2006 using a Core 2 Duo E6700 ‘Conroe’ CPU.
How long does it take to develop / create a new CPU or GPU block?
This varies greatly. Anything from 1 day to 6 months, depending on the complexity of the design, technological processes involved, unknown thermal and hydraulical variables and of course deadline 🙂
How do you test your products in-house? What software are you using for fluids simulations?
We use CFD in two-steps. For quick simulations we rely on the SolidWorks Flow Simulation Suite, more complex simulations are done on our mini cluster using OpenFOAM and other proprietary CFD suite. However the products are still mechanically and thermally tested on the test bench, either a PC or a wind tunnel, which we also built ourselves.
What do users mostly like on your products? What do they dislike?
I think this is more of a question for users than me J. I sincerely hope they appreciate the common design language which is reflected throughout our product portfolio, the performance of our products and the complete & transparent service we offer. However, I’m pretty sure they don’t like when we’re out of stock on certain high-running items 🙂
Bigger part of your products are made in-house. why ?
Fabricating in Asia has it’s perks but also many downsides. We have a highly optimized production line, which allows for a great ramp-up when required. Such setup also allows for a quick turnaround. Our ingenuity in advanced machining and fabrication allows us to stay competitive, despite having production in EU.
Is there any interesting product waiting for us in 2016?
Indeed they are, however I don’t want to spoil the surprise 🙂
Which part of end user is more important for EK? Retail (enthusiast) or industrial?
I would say both are equally important.
How many people work for EK.?
Currently we employ over 50 people.
How do you like your new headquarters?
They make you feel like home. Very cosy.
Is your personal rig also liquid cooled?
Of course. Each and every one (excluding laptop, haha).
Any advice for first time »custom loop« builders?
Sure. Just remember this: »It’s easier than it looks. And more fun than you could ever imagine.« Just beware, this is like an addiction. Once you complete your first build, you will feel empty and have the sudden urge to build a new one. Guaranteed!
Do you prefer flexible or hard tubing? Why?
Flexible. I swap out hardware waaay to often.
Beer or whiskey?
Beer, preferably Czech-style Pilsner (Plzen type).
Niko, thank you for time and hopefully we will see some great new products this year and to have “one” Pilsner soon:)