WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

MicroGreen Polymers Inc. (Arlington)

Winner: Manufacturing Innovation of the Year (Small Companies)
By Bill Virgin |   June 2010   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Photograph by Hayley Young
Tom Malone, MicroGreen
Walking on air: Tom Malone
leads MicroGreen Polymers, which has developed a method of trapping gas
molecules within plastics, making them lighter and less dense.

For more than seven years,
MicroGreen Polymers has been developing and refining a University of
Washington-developed technology designed to make plastics do more work with
less material.

Now, it’s time to put that work to
the test. MicroGreen plans to start production this year at its own
manufacturing plant to take its Ad-air technology to market (it had been using
a contract manufacturer in Wisconsin to prove the concept).

Ad-air combines common plastic
materials such as recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) with pressure and
carbon dioxide to produce a material that is longer, wider, less dense and
double in thickness from the original. By trapping gas molecules within the
plastic, producers need less source material to start with and can make lighter
products.

The initial target market, says
President and Chief Executive Tom Malone, is food packaging. But MicroGreen
sees applications in transportation equipment (cutting the weight of plastics
used in aircraft materials, for example), building materials and light
fixtures, appliances, and electronic displays and casings.

MicroGreen has been busy on
multiple fronts. It signed a royalty-bearing licensing agreement with a
Japanese consumer-electronics company, secured patents, raised capital ($9.3
million to date) and hired staff to start production.

The company expects to hit
commercial volumes of production in the second or third quarters of 2010, but
it’s already scouting new markets. Earlier this year, it won a grant of nearly
$150,000 from the National Science Foundation for research to be done in
collaboration with the UW on wall panels and decorative tiles using plastics
formed with the Ad-air process, to make materials that are lower cost, lighter,
provide better thermal insulation and higher mold resistance, incorporate more
recycled material and are themselves recyclable.

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This story has been updated with funding information that came to light after the magazine went to the printer.