Ventrure funds fuel Thin battery technologies
Imagine standing along the edge of the Grand Canyon surrounded by breathtaking views and creating a talking postcard that could be delivered with your audible message attached. Or taking a cruise to Alaska and donning a bracelet that could track your entrance and exit off the ocean liner to make sure you won’t get left behind. Or applying a Band-Aid sized patch soaked in a drug that will deliver a prescribed and controlled amount of medicine directly to an affected area.
These are all possible and real applications being powered by Thin Battery Technologies Inc., the leading supplier of ultra-thin, flexible, printed batteries. Founded in 2002, Thin Battery recently raised $6.2 million in venture capital to increase marketing and visibility of its carbon-zinc batteries — originally developed by Eveready Battery Co., now known as Energizer Holdings.
Uses for the batteries — ranging in width from 0.4 to 0.7 millimeters (about the size of a pencil tip) — is limited only by the human mind, says Gary Johnson, president and CEO of Thin Battery.
"Applications enabled by printed batteries are developing at a rapid pace and require global marketing and production," Johnson says. "We are far ahead of almost everyone else involved in this … in that we can manufacture the product now."
The company keeps its manufacturing and capital costs low by combining high-speed printing technology and an outsource strategy that includes contracting with existing printers.
With 12 employees, the company recently moved to a 6,000-square-foot facility in Westlake, outgrowing its incubator space in the GrafTech site in Parma. Another round of venture funding is expected in 2010. "Several of the exciting projects we are working on with customers will go into the early stages of production and our revenue will increase," Johnson says.
Through the Roof
Hickman System's sustainable designs are green giants.
When Pacific Garden Mission, the largest continuously operating homeless shelter in the United States, was in the market for a sustainable roof design, the Chicago-based organization turned to W.P. Hickman Systems Inc.
The Solon-based company, a leading provider of roofing and waterproofing systems, designed a 16,000-square-foot roof with solar-reflective membranes to defend against heat buildup and expansive vegetative grids with greenery that requires no watering.
Though W.P. Hickman offers an array of green roofing systems and products, vegetative roofs — living systems consisting of soil and indigenous plants, shrubs and even trees planted atop a protective, waterproof membrane — are what have excited most people. "It's nice to be able to look down and not see cement everywhere," says Brian Dunn, president and CEO of W.P. Hickman and its holding company Serefex Corp.
Vegetative roofs offer many benefits, including lower energy demands, reduced storm water runoff, biodegradable building materials, extended roof life and a reduction of the "heat island effect" (elevated temperatures over an urban area caused by pavement, buildings and pollutants).
Green roofs absorb the sunlight, "so it helps reduce substantially the heat in cities," Dunn says. In turn, these systems have proven ideal for urban areas with limited green space and development has inhibited the absorption of rainwater into the soil.
"The industry is just starting to explode," he says.
That will only spell growth for W.P. Hickman, which has many products that carry Energy Star ratings, Cool Roof Rating Council ratings and can contribute to achieving LEED certification. "We realize that this current trend is here to stay not only because of the environmental benefits, but because of the financial benefits that these solutions provide to our customers," Dunn says.
TCP Inc. has boosted capacity to meet hot demand
TCP Inc. is always looking to create new "socket opportunities."
For the world's largest manufacturer of compact fluorescent light bulbs, that means the chance to replace inefficient lighting. Think improved three-way bulbs, dimming technology and less mercury in compact fluorescents.
Founded in 1993, TCP employs 200 people at its new Aurora facility and manufactures about 1.4 million compact fluorescent bulbs per day at its company-owned manufacturing facilities in China, which employ 13,000.
"Demand is increasing every day as gas prices ... and utility costs continue to rise," says Joe Colant, president of TCP. "People are looking for ways to do what's right for themselves, save on their energy bill and do what's right for the environment."
And TCP has met the challenge, increasing capacity by about 100,000 pieces per day every few months since late fall 2007 by automating the once-manual process of bending the glass into its characteristic spiral. These days, a straight tube of glass is inserted into a machine able to bend it with precision. Other components are also inserted mechanically rather than by hand.
TCP manufactures between 60 and 65 percent of the compact fluorescents on the market in the United States under a variety of brand names, including The Home Depot's N:Vision and Wal-Mart's Great Value.
TCP has a number of different energy-efficient light technologies in addition to compact fluorescent bulbs (which last 8,000 to 10,000 hours compared with 1,500 hours for an incandescent bulb), including LEDs, linear fixtures, decorative fixtures, HID, and exits and emergencies.
TPC is always looking for ways to help customers save energy in all areas of the home or business, says Colant. "The key for success in 2008 is going back to product innovation in order to support a growing market."