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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Zzyxx Aims To Revolutionize Plastics Recycling Industry

Three entrepreneurs from three different parts of the country have come together in Allentown to pioneer a manufacturing process that could revolutionize the plastics and recycling industries.

Mike Janse, Mark Tapsak and Phil Brunner are the founders of Zzyzx Polymers LLC (pronounced /ziziks/), a company that is commercializing licensed intellectual property from Northwestern University in Illinois and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania in order to produce a new type of recycled plastic that can be used to manufacture anything from ballpoint pens to automobile bumpers.

“This is what I call platform technology,” said Tapsak, a chemistry professor at Bloomsburg University who brings the market awareness and production experience to the company.

Janse, of California, is the CEO and Brunner, who is originally from Chicago and earned his doctorate at Northwestern helping to develop SCE, is an inventor and technology specialist.

“It has the ability to literally change the way people think about plastics,” Tapsak explains. “It can be huge.”

The three men came together a year ago and settled on Allentown and Pennsylvania as a manufacturing base because Brunner and his wife wanted to locate near her Stroudsburg home and Tapsak had experience with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP), which has accepted Zzyxx as a partner.

In addition to the funding and support from both BFTP and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the partners say the City of Allentown and Allentown Economic Development Corp. (AEDC) have been invaluable resources as they get the business underway. Because of the enormous power demands created by the new process, AEDC is working with Zzyzx to increase the electricity input to the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center.

“We have a small footprint of only 3,000 square feet but the power requirements of a 60,000 square foot facility,” said Tapsak. “That’s where Bridgeworks has been a great match. They are not only splitting the cost of the electrical upgrades with us, they came up with terms that wrapped our part of the costs into the lease payments.”

AEDC Program Manager Anthony Durante said the upgrades will allow Bridgeworks to help future tenants, as well. “It’s a permanent improvement to the building that will benefit everyone in the long-run,” Durante said. “Zzyzx is probably one of the first companies that we have had in a long time that is a good target for equity investors. They are also a good bellwether company for how we are restructuring the business incubation program and where we want to go with it.”

In addition, Durante said, “These guys have some really interesting technology that can have a big impact on the plastics industry.”

That technology, according to Tapsak, is based on a process known as Continuous Mechanochemical Compatibilization (CMC). Unlike traditional plastics recycling, where the original materials must be meticulously cleaned and separated before being melted and molded into new products, CMC is a high-shear process that first pulverizes and then combines the materials at the molecular level. The benefit, he said, is that manufacturers can take the product and remold the material into items that have good mechanical properties, as long as it does not have to be transparent.

“Literally, the sky is the limit. Anything now made out of plastic can be recycled into other products, as long as it doesn’t have to be clear,” Tapsak explains.

Press Release: Innovative Polymers Company Lands Commercialization Grant

Allentown Startup Zzyzx Polymers Awarded SBIR Phase II Grant for $737,000

Allentown, Pennsylvania – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Zzyzx Polymers (pronounced /ziziks/) a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant in the amount of $737,000. This grant will support research and development efforts on their novel plastic polymers manufacturing process.

“We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for their support of this project and we look forward to bringing our technology to the plastics market,” stated Mike Janse, CEO of Zzyzx.

This SBIR Phase II project will demonstrate the first commercial-scale processing of post-consumer plastic materials for high value applications using an innovative approach known as continuous mechanochemical compatibilization (CMC).

The potential impact of this technology is large. In 2010, only 8% of the 230 million tons of plastic waste generated in the US was recovered for recycling. Unfortunately, the recycling industry continues to struggle with both recovery rates and the processing of recovered plastics. The vast majority of unrecoverable plastic is directed to solid waste streams or landfills, resulting in poor use of non-renewable resources and contributing to environmental contamination. The Zzyzx Polymers project will focus on using CMC to recycle materials without the need for extensive cleaning or sorting, thereby reducing processing steps, and returning value to these materials in a more cost-competitive way.

According to their website, the SBIR program enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization through a competitive awards-based process. In addition to the NSF, several Federal agencies participate in the program such as the National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, Department of Energy and NASA.

Zzyzx Polymers was recently accepted into the business incubation program at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, a program of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation. The company has begun setting up their manufacturing equipment in the incubator and is aiming to start producing prototype plastic resins by the end of the summer. Additionally, Zzyzx Polymers has been selected to receive an investment by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The support provided by Bridgeworks and Ben Franklin Technology Partners were key to helping us obtain this grant,” said Mark Tapsak, one of the cofounders of the company. “The comments we received back from the NSF specifically pointed out that they were impressed with the support from the commonwealth and with the great startup ecosystem in the Lehigh Valley.”

“These are the types of companies that we have been actively recruiting,” explains Anthony Durante, Program Manager for AEDC. “Zzyzx Polymers is working on an innovative process that potentially has a huge impact on the world and in industry. Having these ‘next-generation of manufacturing’ type companies in our program is simply awesome.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, the success of this Phase II project could have a significant economic impact. It has been found that processing recycled materials creates approximately nine jobs for every 15,000 tons of material recovered per year. If Zzyzx Polymers is successful in commercializing their process, the improved availability of high-quality recycled plastics could improve their use in consumer products and lead to an increase in green jobs.

“The SBIR grant will allow the Zzyzx management team to accelerate the process of launching and growing the company,” added Scott Unger, Executive Director for AEDC. “Ultimately, that means the company is able to create jobs and reach profitability faster than they planned to. We are very excited to see them be awarded this grant.”

About Zzyzx Polymers

Zzyzx /ziziks/ Polymers manufactures plastic pellets, referred to as “resin” in the plastic industry, which is the raw material its customers will use to make their own products. Zzyzx makes plastics that no one else can produce. It accomplishes this by either compatibilizing together various mixed plastics or fillers and plastics. Zzyzx manufactures products that are different from those currently available because its patented process chemically binds the components together in a unique way. This process uses conventional equipment, but in an unconventional configuration.

For more information, please visit their website: http://www.zpolymers.com/

About the Allentown Economic Development Corporation

AEDC is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to a mission of identifying, encouraging, developing and managing strategic business opportunities for the benefit of Allentown, its citizens, and the Lehigh Valley. Its goal is to improve vacant and underutilized properties by assisting manufacturers, business owners and entrepreneurs in obtaining the resources and opportunities they require for success in the City of Allentown. AEDC offers access to financing and incentives, assistance with brownfield remediation, and support for growing businesses within the City.

For more information, please visit their website: http://allentownedc.com/

Mead Free Or Die

Press Release: Growing Allentown Meadery Blows Away Competition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Colony Meadery Wins Commercial Mead Maker of the Year in National Competition

Allentown, Pennsylvania – Over the weekend, The Colony Meadery was awarded the first “Commercial Mead Maker of the Year” award at the Mead Free or Die competition held in New Hampshire.

In addition to taking the top prize, the burgeoning Allentown meadery took home five of the nine awards, including:

  • 1st Place in Open Category Meads for their Favorite Child (flavored with raspberry and chipotle)
  • 2nd Place in Open Category Meads for their Woofiedog (a hopped mead)
  • 2nd Place in Traditional Meads for their Straight, No Chaser (made with orange blossom honey)
  • 3rd Place in Traditional Meads for their Queen’s Gambit (made with wildflower honey)
  • 3rd Place in Melomel Meads for their Pikwant Field (flavored with strawberry and kiwi)

Mead is one of the oldest beverages in human history, dating back to both the ancient Egyptian and Viking societies. At its base, mead is made from fermented honey. Today, producers like The Colony Meadery often begin with basic mead and then add additional flavorings like fruit, coffee, hops, and spices. The result is a wide range of tasty beverages that find appeal across many palates.

“Mead is completely different from other beverages out there,” says Mike Manning, Cofounder and Mead Maker of The Colony Meadery. “As an artisanal beverage, it finds a lot of appeal with both craft beer enthusiasts and wine drinkers.”

Setting up their operations this past October at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the manufacturing business incubation program of Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), The Colony Meadery released the first of its meads to the public in January of this year.

Since its launch, The Colony Meadery has steadily expanded its presence within eastern Pennsylvania at restaurants like, Fegley’s Brew Works, Strange Brew Tavern and Hulmeville Inn. Additionally, they have recently ventured across state lines, distributing mead to New Jersey with Hunterdon Brewing.

“We’re honored that our commitment to quality mead is resonating with customers, and now validated by our peers in competition,” said Greg Heller-LaBelle, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of The Colony Meadery.

“Having The Colony Meadery do so well in competition is exciting to see and a great milestone for Mike and Greg,” said Anthony Durante, Program Manager for AEDC. “Results like this will certainly drive people to deliberately seek out their mead at restaurants, in stores or by visiting the meadery. It all leads to continued growth and success for the company.”

 

About The Colony Meadery

The Colony Meadery’s mission is to produce the boldest and most innovative meads in the world. We use experimental batches, modern methodology, and precise control of fermentation to create meads that are distinct and varied. We believe in uncompromising quality, flavor and craftsmanship. We are members of both the Brewers Association and the American Mead Makers Association.

For more information, please visit their website: http://thecolonymeadery.com/

 

About the Allentown Economic Development Corporation

AEDC is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to a mission of identifying, encouraging, developing and managing strategic business opportunities for the benefit of Allentown, its citizens, and the Lehigh Valley. Its goal is to improve vacant and underutilized properties by assisting manufacturers, business owners and entrepreneurs in obtaining the resources and opportunities they require for success in the City of Allentown. AEDC offers access to financing and incentives, assistance with brownfield remediation, and support for growing businesses within the City.

For more information, please visit their website: http://allentownedc.com/

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