NEWS: One Trend Spawns Another, OC Company Looks to Capitalize
As the trend of 3-D printing grows, so does the nationwide challenge of disposing of plastic waste. 3-D printing is the process of making a physical object from a 3-D digital model.
Most of the plastic waste, historically, has been shipped to China. But due to China’s ban on imports of recyclable material – imposed last year – more than 80% of the U.S.’s recycling infrastructure has to find other options.
A new crop of companies has emerged that are dedicated to finding alternatives.
One of them is here in OC.
Closed Loop Plastics, with HQ in Irvine, is a recycling company that takes the cycle full circle. It takes plastic waste and turns it into 3-D printable material.
It was founded by four entrepreneurs, including co-CEO Will Amos. He admits that neither he nor any of his co-founders had any background in recycling. But, he said they’ve done their due diligence, including attending the REfocus Recycling summit at NPE earlier this year in Florida (NPE is part of the the Plastics Industry Association). The conference featured discussions on how to increase opportunities for recycling and sustainability in manufactured plastics.
3-D printing has been around since the 80’s. It’s been called “revolutionary,” as it levels the playing field and gives anyone the ability to make an idea into a physical object.
Last year, MIT built a robot that can print an entire building in about 14 hours using a 3-D printer (see article here).
3-D printers have gained traction as the hardware becomes more affordable and works its way into the mainstream. It’s become an approximate $6 billion industry, according to news reports. In 2015, close to 500,000 printers were sold and it’s estimated that will jump to 6.7 million in 2020.
Last year, Base 11 (a nonprofit workforce development and entrepreneur accelerator with HQ in Costa Mesa) opened an innovation center in Irvine that contains several 3-D printers. Its center is inside UCI’s innovation center, Applied Innovation, at the Cove in University Research Park.
Closed Loop Plastics started by selling to pre-confirmed wholesale customers, which it obtained by “active participation within the 3-D printing community and market,” Amos told OC Startups Now.
The company then plans to expand into bulk sales to the education market, a potential revenue stream of $35 million annually, Amos said.
The co-founders have bootstrapped the company with $70,000. They plan to raise $750,000 to open their first pilot-scale facility by the start of next year, Amos said.
Their advisory board includes Scott Kitcher, CEO of Sustain OC, a nonprofit at the Cove that works to accelerate sustainability in throughout OC via innovation, collaboration and education. Other advisors are Erik Wolf, CEO of Airwolf 3D Printers in Fountain Valley; and David Ochi, executive director of UCI’s ANTrepreneur Center, a program to help students succeed in their ventures during and after they graduate.