3D printing is a set of additive manufacturing processes that creates physical objects from digital models one layer at a time. Unlike traditional manufacturing techniques (casting, drilling, machining, etc.), which tend to be subtractive in nature, 3D printing additively builds up an object instead of cutting it down from a larger block of material. While 3D printing dates back to the 1980s, the last decade has seen swift growth and excitement in the sector across the globe. As the various printing approaches improve and the materials palette grows, 3D printing is starting to move from just low volume, highly customized rapid prototyping applications to some final products and post-production customization.

Catalysts are advanced materials that enable chemical transformations. It is estimated that more than 60% of chemical products and 90% of chemical processes are made possible by catalysis. The catalyst market size exceeds $25 billion and involves large industries supplying products and services critical to everyday living. Enzymes, which are nature’s catalysts, drive the biochemical processes in living organisms and anchor industrial biocatalysis. Catalysis is now expected to play a crucial role in transformational technologies designed to usher in a better and cleaner world. This is key area of interest for Pangaea Ventures and our portfolio companies are already leveraging unique catalytic processes to engineer and manufacture novel advanced materials.

The March of Carbon

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Carbon is the stuff of life! A vital element in nature, it is also one of the most abundant elements and present in every life form. Indeed, we, humans, have been classified as "carbon units" by V'Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It is a sort of friendly element, easily reacting with other elements, resulting in a library of millions of compounds. While carbon has been used since prehistoric times, it took thousands of years to discover the various forms or allotropes known to us today. Carbon's ubiquitous nature also gives rise to the so-called carbon cycle, a biogeochemical process involving the cycling of carbon atoms between earth and its atmosphere. Recognition as an element came in the eighteenth century and a carbon isotope forms the basis of the carbon dating (Nobel Prize in 1960) technology so critical to archeology.

Examining The Drop-In Replacement

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Entrepreneurs often like to promote their solutions as "drop-in replacements" for existing technologies. This makes a lot of sense. No established company wants to hear about a different way of doing something that incurs significant switching costs or other associated manufacturing hardships even if the novel solution, material, or product provides additional compelling cost and/or performance benefit(s). In my experience, these claims of drop-in replacements usually have to be taken with a serious grain of salt.

The Onset of Renewable Chemicals

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Global concerns about the environmental impact from use of petroleum-based feedstock to produce chemicals have fuelled the rise of “green” chemistry. Typically, this includes the deployment of more environmentally friendly production technologies and use of biobased feedstocks to manufacture renewable chemicals, fuels and bioenergy. Use of these green chemicals is already underway with various products already in the markets. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that there are 20,000 biobased products currently being manufactured in North America. Recent forecasts project the renewable chemicals market to reach $100 billion by 2020. The economic benefits from this sustainable approach is also significant, with potential savings of over $65 billion in the chemical industry that is expected to grow beyond $5 trillion value by 2020. Additionally, the growth of renewable chemicals provides a major opportunity for the chemical industry to reduce its carbon footprint.