Plastics remain the bane of many environmentalists, but aspiring venture capitalists seem to see polymers in a different light. Two of the top four finishers in this year’s Rice University Business Plan Competition focus on plastics. The winners get star treatment in the current issue of Fortune Magazine in a section headlined “Venture”.
The first place finisher is a new pharmaceutical and number two is an Internet tool for human authentication. And at number three is a project called PK Clean from two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their intriguing idea? Conversion of plastic waste into diesel fuel. That should stop all the trash talk about plastics.
At the fourth spot is a project called cyclewood Plastics from a student team at the University of Arkansas. These students have developed a marketing plan for a biodegradable plastic bag made from a byproduct of paper production. OK. That one sounds like a pretty well tried-and tested idea. Many companies are now selling biodegradable plastic bags from a variety or renewable feedstocks. The one edge for cyclewood is use of a waste byproduct in a technology developed at the University of Minnesota. And who knows–maybe their bags will degrade faster than the competition!
Dealing with plastic bag disposal has been the bane of the retail existence for a long time. In retail, we had seen recyclable bags in the past, but they would stick together causing significant waste. The new generation seems to have better success but do not do well in hot environments or storage.
These new 3D-printing technologies and printers include some that are truly boundary-breaking: a sophisticated new sub-$10,000, 10-plus materials bioprinter, the first industrial-strength silicone 3D-printing service, and a clever twist on 3D printing and thermoforming for making high-quality realistic models.
Using simulation to guide the drafting process can speed up the design and production of 3D-printed nanostructures, reduce errors, and even make it possible to scale up the structures. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a model that does this.
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