Clean-tech company Mallinda raises $2 million

A startup spun out of technology developed at the University of Colorado Boulder has received $2 million in funding through a Series A.

Mallinda has found a new way to make lightweight composites, which can have major future benefits like making cars more energy efficient by building them with more lightweight materials.

Mallinda is the brainchild of Chris Kaffer, CEO, and Philip Taynton, chief technology officer and inventor of the technology used by Mallinda.

“The general rule of thumb is that a 50 percent reduction in the mass of a vehicle, such as by reducing steel utilization, results in 35 to 40 percent improvement of fuel efficiency in reduced emissions and improved range in electric vehicles,” Kaffer told BizWest. “There’s potential for lightweight vehicles and the industry is moving in that direction.”

Mallinda’s technology is essentially a polymer that allows manufacturers to stamp out the composite parts they need from a sheet in a minute or less.

Most composite materials, such as carbon fiber, are expensive, Kaffer said. They can take a long time to make a part from them, something impractical for an industry like the automotive one.

The secret comes in Taynton’s technology, which is ultimately like a new class of chemistry. Most polymer materials are in one of two classes, Kaffer explained. The first, called thermoset, are very hard and strong but can take a very long time to cure and once that’s done, there’s no recycling them. An epoxy is a thermoset polymer: it’s very effective but once it’s used on materials there’s no recycling any of it. The second class is thermoplastic polymers. These are weaker plastics, like a cheap deck chair. They can be processed quickly or done with injection molding. They’re recyclable, but they’re not very strong.

But Mallinda has managed to marry the two classes together into a polymer that is super strong like a thermoset but can be processed easily like a thermoplastic. Or put another way:

“Thermoplastic can be compared to butter; you can melt butter, chill it and it’s hard again,” Taynton told BizWest. “Thermoset is like eggs. It’s liquidy and resiny until you cook them and then they’re hard. You can’t then melt an egg and change its shape. It’s cooked. We make, in the simplest terms, eggs that melt.”

Mallinda makes preimpregnated fiber reinforced composites — that is, something like a glass or carbon fiber that is already endowed with Mallinda’s polymer resin. Mallinda then turns that into sheets. Manufacturers can take those sheets, stack them up and stamp out the product they need. It’s a major improvement on something like a thermoset, which isn’t preimpregnated and instead must be cured, which takes a long time. The thermoset products also need to be stored at a certain temperature and have a limited shelf life — something that isn’t a concern for the Mallinda composites. Additionally, the Mallinda composites can be recycled, using a chemical solution that can separate the materials totally.

The potential of what Mallinda is doing has gotten the attention of Sabic Ventures, a chemical company with $40 billion in revenue, which led the company’s Series A.

“This funding round is really to help us get up to commercial scale and in commercial production for some of our materials and attack early markets that don’t require long validation cycles such as the automotive segment,” Kaffer said.

That includes making materials for sporting goods or other durable goods, he added.

“Sabic purchased the GE Plastics assets several years ago and it has a bunch of U.S. facilities we might be able to leverage as we go to scale,” Kaffer said. “Sabic has expertise and resources to help us get over the massive hurdles that would be challenging for us without having the backing of a global strategic group. It’s great for us.”

He added that the $2 million investment gives the company about 24 months to reach its milestones. The company is already making moves, relocating from Aurora to Denver and growing from four employees to eight or nine.

Looking ahead, Taynton said, there are exciting applications for the product, even beyond the revolutionary applications for the automotive industry.

“Automotive is where people are most excited for lightweight composites now, but where there is the biggest current volume of composites is electronic,” he said.

Green circuit boards are made from an epoxy-fiberglass composite, which can’t be easily recycled. But using a polymer like what Mallinda has can be easily recycled.

“If you imagine replacing that [with what we have], you can use a solution process and dissolve all of the electronics and get back those metals,” Taynton said. “That would take three, four, five decades to develop. It’s more difficult than getting into automotive or aerospace applications, but in the long term it could be big and something we have a role in solving.”

 

A startup spun out of technology developed at the University of Colorado Boulder has received $2 million in funding through a Series A.

Mallinda has found a new way to make lightweight composites, which can have major future benefits like making cars more energy efficient by building them with more lightweight materials.

Mallinda is the brainchild of Chris Kaffer, CEO, and Philip Taynton, chief technology officer and inventor of the technology used by Mallinda.

“The general rule of thumb is that a 50 percent reduction in the mass of a vehicle, such as by reducing steel utilization, results in 35 to 40 percent improvement of fuel efficiency in reduced emissions and improved range in electric vehicles,” Kaffer told BizWest. “There’s potential for lightweight vehicles and the industry is moving in that direction.”

Mallinda’s technology is essentially a polymer that allows manufacturers to stamp out the composite parts they need from a sheet in a minute or less.

Most composite materials, such as carbon fiber, are expensive, Kaffer said. They can take a long time to make a part from them, something impractical for an industry like the automotive one.

The secret comes in Taynton’s technology, which is ultimately like a new class of chemistry. Most polymer materials are in one of two classes, Kaffer explained. The first, called thermoset, are very hard and strong but can take a very long time to cure and once that’s done, there’s no recycling them. An epoxy is a thermoset…