Metal-plastic blend may be right stuff
A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Integral Technologies.
What: Integral Technologies
What it does: Research, develop and commercialize a new material called "electriplast." Composed of different types of metal and plastic, electriplast acts like metal but it can be molded or extruded like plastic.
Who: Bill Robinson, chief executive, who works from the company's Vancouver, B.C., office; and Thomas Aisenbrey, general manager in the company's Bellingham headquarters.
Electriplast advantage: It reduces the cost of manufacturing because it is easier to mold and is lighter than metal. Its use in airplanes could make them more efficient; it could make cellphones smaller. "It reduces 50 percent of the part count because you can do more with molding," Aisenbrey said. "If you are building 4 million parts, and saving 3 to 4 cents a part, that becomes a big chunk of change. It is 40 percent less weight than aluminum and 80 percent less than copper."
History: Robinson started the company in 1996, focusing on developing new antennas for wireless devices such as cellphones and for satellite communications. The company developed a "flat panel" antenna that looks more like a sheet of paper than the standard whip antenna on a car. When Aisenbrey came on board in 2001, he was charged with building part of the flat panel.
Serendipity: In trying to figure out how to build part of the antenna so it wouldn't rust, Aisenbrey invented electriplast as a solution. As partly plastic, it would be resistant to rusting.
Patents: Since then, Aisenbrey has filed 100 patents, most still pending, to explore the market potential of the material. "This is the next stage in manufacturing in many regards," Aisenbrey said. "Now you have the ability to mold things you never thought you could possibly do with metal."
Bottom line: The company raised $19 million by going public in 1996 and today has about 5,000 shareholders. Friday, it closed at 49 cents on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board. Still in research-and-development mode, Integral has six employees and had a net loss of $57,482 on no revenue in the quarter ended in March. At the time, the company had about $2.25 million in cash.
— Tricia Duryee