Entrepreneurs work to reduce carbon footprint
By Erica Garber
After weeks of incessantly checking his phone, Mark Sherman finally received the news he had been waiting for during a layover in San Antonio: His company’s Kickstarter campaign was fully funded for $20,000.
“It all paid off in the end,” says Gerald Galazin, Sherman’s business partner. “We had a little pause in the beginning, and things died down. Then we talked to other companies that used Kickstarter and found there’s typically a lull in the middle. We kept our hopes up and kept working.”
Galazin and Sherman’s company, Dimension Polymers, produces recycled 3D printing filament, which they pitch as the first of its kind: professionally engineered from 95 percent recycled plastic.
“As far as I can tell, they’re the first to do this,” says Stuart Marsh, co-owner of 3D printing and graphic design service Edgewater Workbench. Marsh says he’s been looking for a recycled filament since he started in the 3D printing business.
As the 3D printing industry grows, so does its carbon footprint. Hobbyists and industry professionals in architecture, medicine and more consume an estimated 30 million pounds of plastic each year, according to a 2014 Plastic News Industry Report. At the current rate, Galazin and Sherman estimate the industry will have a global impact of 800 million pounds of carbon emissions annually by 2020. They believe their recycling process can reduce toxins that pollute the environment by 66 percent and generate less than one-third of the associated carbon emissions.
“We thought it was necessary,” says Sherman. “There were no sustainable options out there in the market. I would like to have that option available to choose as a consumer.”
Compared to other filaments, Dimension Polymers’ formula is almost indistinguishable from the highest-quality, traditional ABS filaments — the most common plastic and filament used — says Marsh.
“There was this gap in the material space that hadn’t been filled,” says Sherman. “I thought, ‘Hey there could be something here,’ and kept doing my research and plugging numbers. Then, I came across Gerald, who was a great complement to my skill sets with his background in plastics.”
Like any great partnership, they each have a different set of skills. Sherman has more than 15 years of business experience. Galazin has always worked in process improvement but began to get involved in the plastics industry in 2009, working in the automotive, aerospace, electronics and medical industries.
“I like exploring new technologies,” says Galazin.“3D printing has been on my radar for some time now. Then, knowing what I know about plastics, recycling and the environment, it gave me some perspective about a bigger problem.”
Galazin and Sherman founded Dimension Polymers in July 2014.
Sherman says their first formula had cosmetic issues and clogged the 3D printer at one point. The pair tried another formula, but it ended up crumbling, similar to shredded wheat. Finally, after six months of trial and error, Sherman and Galazin found their formula.
“We tried it on various 3D printers, and it printed just as good,” says Sherman.
The next step was to mass-produce the product. The only problem was that production costs were high, and Sherman and Galazin wanted to make the product as affordable as possible. To make the greener option the cheaper option, they decided to ask the public for help. In February 2015, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to help with production costs.
They succeeded. To prove it, Galazin took his camera to a local home improvement store to compare the price of a virgin plastic filament (that he prefers not to name) to the price of Dimension Polymer’s recycled plastic filament. The virgin plastic was priced at $24 per pound while the recycled plastic was priced at just over $18 per pound. Dimension Polymer’s recycled filament will be available for purchase come summer 2015 on the company’s website.
Weeks after reaching their goal, the two innovators behind Dimension Polymers set out on the road. Late on a Wednesday night in a New York City hotel room, Sherman and Galazin prepared for the 3D Print Show, a world-wide annual conference. Fresh faces in the 3D printing industry, the following day these two innovators were set to present their product to more than 6,000 industry professionals—an intimidating group. Galazin, however, was excited and confident.
“We are the first recycled filament manufacturing company to introduce a product, and have only be around since June of 2014,” he says.
In the future, Sherman and Galazin hope to develop additional types of environmentally-friendly materials and become the leading supplier for filament in the 3D printing industry.
“I want to help keep the Earth an awesome place so my son, and his kids, can experience nature the same way I do,” says Galazin.
edited by Taylor Scheibe
photos by Alex Harrell
headshot courtesy of Dimension Polymers