One of my favorite companies on the technical conference circuit in the past two years has been an under-the-radar contract R&D startup near River Falls, Wisc. named Interfacial Solutions. The chairman, and chief technology officer is Jeff Cernohous, who had led the Dynamar additives development team at 3M before founding Interfacial Solutions in 2003. He has a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Minensota and has staffed up the company with several PhDs. Fifty technical people work at the company now.
Earlier this year, Adam Pawloski, technical director of Interfacial Solutions (PhD, Wisconsin in chemical engineering), made a presentation at Innovation Takes Root on work the company is doing on proprietary hyper-branching technology based on reactive extrusion that dramatically increases molecular weight of a polymer. The process boosts the melt strength and processability of polylactic acid (PLA) and when applied to recycled PLA, properties can be boosted enough to rival virgin PLA.
I first met Cernohaus at the SPE Automotive Composites Conference in Michigan in 2013 where he gave a presentation on development of a new wood reinforcement for Weyerhaeuser that provides weight savings compared to glass, cuts cycle times and provides a green alternative. He had earlier presented a paper on moisture-resistant wood composite technology at ANTEC in Orlando, Fla. Weyerhaeuser’s official announcement of the technology did not even mention Interfacial Solutions. Ford also omitted the company in its announcement.
Now we learn that Interfacial Solutions has been doing materials’ development for Stratasys, the high-flying and rapidly changing producer of 3D printing systems.
Stratasys announced this week that it has entered into a definitive asset purchase agreement to acquire certain assets of Interfacial Solutions, which has been a behind-the-scenes R&D arm for Stratasys and has produced some of its thermoplastic materials.
“Interfacial Solutions provides significant expertise in plastics and filament,” says David Reis, CEO of Stratasys. “We believe its knowledgeable team and experience will accelerate Stratasys’ materials development efforts for all of our FDM platforms, including MakerBot. The acquisition is expected to accomplish three objectives for Stratasys, which include strengthening our materials R&D skills and bandwidth; enabling us to become vertically integrated in material development and manufacturing; and increasing materials production space and capacity. Overall, we expect to accelerate new materials development, allowing us to introduce new products to the market faster.”
Production capabilities at Interfacial Solutions include a two-year-old 50mm ZSE MAXX twin-screw extruder from Leistritz that enables its super critical CO2 R&D foaming needs and provides additional production capacity for wood-fiber composites. IFS Engineered Plastic Compounds also operates a Lantai 58mm twin screw extruder.
The acquisition is a potentially promising development for the MakerBot crowd, which has been craving better quality materials at lower prices.