Nano Science and Technology Institute

Raymor Industries’ Recipe for NanoMaterials Success

Less than a year after Raymor Industries, a small Canadian nanomaterials firm, went live with a new high capacity plant for single-walled carbon nanotube, the company has been on a rapid ride. With new investments, new customers and even more capacity lined up for 2007, Raymor executives seem to be proving their view that nano success requires good IP, but so much more.

Raymor Industries, a small-but-exploding Canadian maker of nanomaterials and advanced materials, has new investment, new customers and new capacity – and is poised to make some big noise in small tech in 2007.

Raymor's New 77,00 ft2 Operating Facility
 
Raymor's New 77,00 ft2 Operating Facility. Courtesy of Raymor.

Only a month after it opened its first high capacity plant with targeted capacity of 10,000 grams/day/unit for single-walled carbon nanotubes (C-SWNTs), Raymor secured $10 million (Canadian) in new funding, won advanced materials and nano-materials business from Boeing and Stryker Corporation,(among other industrial firms) and is now planning further capacity expansion for SWNTs, spherical metallic powders, nano-coatings and other nano-materials.

Stephane Robert’s approach might be described as: “If we build (what customers want), they will come.” To understand more about how Raymor is building its nano-success, Nano World News spoke with Raymor CEO Stephane Robert and Raymor Business Development Manager Tom Whitton.

Raymor’s 5 Simple Ingredients for NanoMaterials Success

To sum it up, Raymor CEO Stephane Robert’s recipe for success in attracting and convincing large industrial firms is simple to explain, but hard to do:

  • Start with a strong emphasis on identifying specific markets for high volumes of nanomaterials and advanced materials;
  • Identify potential customers which will need large quantities of these materials for high value-added applications;
  • Develop technologies to address customer requirements;
  • Implement an industrial production capacity for these products; and
  • Sign long-term industrial production capacity for these products.

This recipe is working well for Raymor, as Robert told Nano World News in our interview.

Robert: “2006 was an important year for us, as we completed the installation of our first high capacity C-SWNT production unit in June. Between now and the end of the year, we will complete the process of optimizing our first unit to find that balance between quality, purity and throughput.”

NWN: What are the factors in Raymor’s rapid success in offering nanomaterials, especially to large industrial firms who would have their choice of suppliers?

Robert: “It is important to identify the needs of each client and develop, with a team of experts, a technology which will have production costs lower than the competition while improving on the quality of the final product. Ultimately, our customers need solutions to their challenges, and Raymor aims to address them with our products and services.”

Raymor’s Business Development Manager Tom Whitton underscores this point.

Whitton: On that point, Raymor has invested a lot into understanding the properties of our [nano] materials, and the best ways to make them so that they match the needs of our customers. We don’t simply take orders and deliver nano-materials to customers. We work very closely with them to understand just what they need in terms of strength or light-weight or flexibility or whatever other characteristics they are looking for. We understand this science and how different processes deliver these [characteristics], how to deliver expertise, and a partnership with our customers, and these are the kes to our success.

Robert: We have learned that we need to be patient with our client as they evaluate our materials for end-use integration. We always hope that a big purchase order is imminent; however, with the caliber of clients that we are dealing with, we need to let them feel comfortable with using C-SWNT in their next generation products.

Robert and Whitton credit this collaborative approach to making and delivering advanced materials and nano-materials with the successes they’ve enjoyed with Boeing, Stryker and many other industrial firms the company cannot yet name publicly.

NWN: Does Raymor see this approach working into 2007 and beyond?

Robert: Yes, 2007 will be an important year for the company, with the move to our new, 77,000 square foot facility, which will be more adaptable for the expansion of each of our divisions.

NWN: So, looking into 2007, what demand trends for nano-materials are you seeing? What are Raymor’s customers asking for from you?

Robert: With respect to our nanotubes, demand spans many industries, from defense to biomedical to energy to electronics. Our first high capacity C-SWNT production unit was brought on stream at the end of June 2006. Our optimization process, which will conclude by the end of this year, will provide high quality C-SWNT for aerospace, defense and high-tech applications. Raymor expects this business to take off in 2007.

The best opportunity we see for Raymor in the near future is for the enhancement of composite materials for aircraft. To date, Boeing has sold more than 445 of the new 787 Dreamliner, which is designed to have a 20% reduction in fuel consumption. [To accomplish this fuel-efficiency], more than 90% of the outer structure of this aircraft is being built out of lightweight, polymer-based composites and Boeing is looking towards adding materials like SWNTs to provide structural integrity as well as to provide lightning strike protection for the aircraft.

Aside from Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, Robert says Raymor expects nano-materials opportunities could come from AirBus’ A350 program, as well as updates of legacy aircraft from both firms.

NWN: And do you see other advanced and nano-materials opportunities outside of the aircraft business?

Robert: Raymor’s subsidiary, AP&C Advanced Powders and Coatings, will install a second plasma atomization unit to produce spherical metallic powders…. Stryker is using our highly pure, very spherical titanium powders in the manufacturing of orthopedic implants, such as hips, knees and so on. Though both technologies use plasma, our approach to producing metallic powders is unrelated to our C-SWNT process

Whitton: Our work with Stryker is truly exciting. Not only do advanced and nano-materials help make longer lasting implants for patients, but there is evidence that the size and shape of our spherical powders encourages bone growth.

NWN: So, can you sum up what Raymor has learned that might be valuable to other firms looking at commercialization of nano?

Robert: We have learned the process of getting our materials qualified, particularly our C-SWNT, can take time. In some cases, [in fact], the criteria for evaluating our materials has yet to be developed. So, we are sometimes left with long wait periods before receiving feedback from our customer base. Nonetheless, these waiting periods will be fruitful in the end, [and can contribute to our] technological advantage over our competitors.

For Raymor’s Robert, (and NWN readers), the proof of his view is in the results:

Raymor received an order from one client already with respect to use of our C-SWNT in aerospace, and they are in negotiations with others. In powders & coatings, Raymor has doubled revenues for the first six months of 2006. To open a new market for its C-SWNTs, Raymor is also in negotiation for further IP that would optimize their C-SWNTs for use in batteries, he told NWN.

And, there could be further good news for Raymor, and nanotech in general:

“With respect to composites, our clients are looking at developing specific additives to render our C-SWNT dispersible in a polymeric matrix. With an optimal dispersion, our clients are looking to offer a conductive polymer that can be employed for aero structures, in order to address the need for lightening strike protection, wing deicing, and electrostatic dissipation,” Robert said.

These new opportunities are made possible by the new $10 million investment Raymor received in part from the Fidelity Canadian Opportunities Fund, which is fueling production capacity, licenses, customer evaluation projects and R&D. Raymor now owns or licenses more than 20 patents for nano-powders, nano-coatings, and single-walled carbon nanotubes (C-SWNT).

Raymor Industries will be participating at Nanotech 2007, to be held May 20-24 in Santa Clara, Calif. For more information, please visit www.nsti.org/Nanotech2007

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