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Dow Chemical: Green Chemistry Innovation

  • December 12, 2013

When the EPA awarded The Dow Chemical Company with a U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award honor in 2013, it marked the ninth time in 18 years that Dow and its affiliates have received such recognition. The award was established in 1996 to recognize organizations that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use. Selections are made each year by a panel of experts from the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute

The 2013 award recognized Dow technology, called EVOQUE pre-composite polymer technology, that is reducing the environmental impact of coatings such as paint. The technology improves rust resistance, while cutting the paint’s carbon footprint by more than 22 percent and water consumption by 30 percent. It is an example of innovation that benefits the environment while improving performance, reducing waste, and making good business sense.

Dow manufactures more than 5,000 different products at 188 factories in 36 countries. Its global workforce exceeds 54,000 people. The company believes that product and process innovation go hand-in-hand with sustainable business.

Rohm and Haas, which is now a division of Dow, received a Green Chemistry honor in 1996 for a product called Sea-Nine that controls the growth of plants and animals on ship hulls, which at the time was imposing $3 billion per year in extra fuel costs. Sea-Nine, which is applied like paint, replaced less effective products with toxic tin-containing materials.

In 2000, Dow won for a product called Sentricon that eliminates termites. Until 1995, the common approach to subterranean termite control involved placing insecticides into the soil surrounding a building to create a chemical barrier. Sentricon is a highly specific bait used only where termites are active. It has been used on hundreds of thousands of homes.

Dow and BASF jointly developed a better process for making propylene oxide, a chemical that is ubiquitous in industrial processes, such as the manufacture of detergents, food additives, and polyurethanes. The new process uses less water and substantially reduces the generation of waste in the production of propylene oxide, leading to a Sustainable Chemistry award in 2010.

More information about the Presidential Green Chemistry Award program can be found here.

Texas Instruments: Leading in NanoPower Harvesting Innovation

  • December 10, 2013

One of today’s most exciting emerging technologies is a process called NanoPower Harvesting. The goal of this technology is to harness unexploited energy in the environment and put it to practical use. Extensive R&D efforts are underway.

Here is how Texas Instruments (TI), a technological leader in this developing field, paints the picture: “Imagine a world in which we’re surrounded by wireless sensors that monitor environmental conditions such as air quality, and they all simply scavenge the power they need from sunlight and elsewhere. The first glimmer of that day is already here.”

NanoPower Harvesting can be defined as systems that extract and manage tiny amounts of power from ambient sources such as light, solar, thermal, electromagnetic, or vibration to supply the power for low-power devices with applications that may not be possible with traditional battery-powered systems.

One future application is likely to be using energy from human body heat to power sensors for medical and fitness monitoring purposes, according to TI. Another could be monitoring the condition of infrastructure, such as bridges and levees, where checking and changing batteries is not especially practical. Yet another application almost certainly will include wireless monitoring of HVAC and lighting smart-systems in factories, office buildings, and homes.

TI has already introduced a number of products in this space. One is the bq25504 Ultra Low Power Boost Charger. This product does not harvest energy, but it provides the vital connection between a harvesting device (such as a photovoltaic solar cell) and an end-use electronic device. It features a high-efficiency current boost charger/converter, user-programmable power point tracking, cold-start capability, and flexible energy storage options. It operates on only 330 nano-amps, which TI notes is the best in the industry.

There is another environmental benefit of this technology. By reducing the need for batteries or extending their life, there will be fewer batteries ending up in landfills.

When placed on a wireless sensor node with three commonly available integrated circuit components, the bq25504 can extract energy from ambient light and use it in applications such as powering a microprocessor. This application provides a hint of the exciting things to come, as product designers will develop other innovative uses that conserve energy and improve our quality of life. In the interim, the work that TI is doing to expedite the use of this technology is a Great Manufacturing Story.

Huntsman: Largest Maker of Ethylene Oxide in North America

  • October 18, 2013

If you have never heard of ethylene oxide, don’t feel bad. The industrial chemical does not come up in casual conversation very often. But that does not mean it isn’t important.

According to the American Chemistry Council, ethylene oxide and its derivatives are used in the production of countless products that we do rely on every day, including polyester fiber for clothing, carpet and pillows; jet skis and bowling balls; bandages and sterile instruments; shampoos and cosmetics; upholstered furniture and bath tubs; engine antifreeze; and many more.

That is why it’s important that manufacturers have access to reliable, affordable supplies of the chemical. In October 2013, Huntsman Corp. announced a $125 million expansion of its ethylene oxide plant in Port Neches, Texas. Jefferson County is participating in the investment with a seven-year property tax abatement on the value of the improvements.

Once the expansion is completed in mid-2015, the Port Neches plant will be the second-largest producer of the chemical in the world, and the largest in North America. Capacity will increase from 1 billion pounds to 1.265 billion pounds per year. The expanded plant will employ about 325 people.

A remarkable aspect of the facility is that Huntsman purchased and refurbished a production unit that LyondellBasell had shut down in Beaumont after it sustained hurricane damage. Huntsman shipped the production unit down the Neches River by barge for installation in Port Neches.

For all of the everyday necessities that rely on ethylene oxide, the expansion of the Huntsman plant in Port Neches is a Great Manufacturing Story.

Wilson Electronics: Boosting Signal Strength

  • September 28, 2013

As reliable cellular communication has become increasingly important to businesses, government, and consumers, the demand for signal boosters, antennas and related applications has grown considerably. Wilson Electronics, based in St. George, Utah, is the top-selling producer in this industry, and was honored in September, 2013 with a Manufacturing Best Practices Award by the Utah Manufacturers Association.

Wilson implemented an array of process improvements over the past year, with impressive results. For example, the creation of a single-piece flow production line for high volume products has reduced average manufacturing throughput time by more than 80 percent. The separation of production into three volume-based flow lines has improved on-time deliveries across the board. A demand-pull inventory system has been another tangible improvement.

Wilson’s products fall into three general categories: mobile solutions, building applications, and machine-to-machine solutions. The company performs all its R&D, manufacturing and testing at its Utah location. With its recent process improvements, Wilson Electronics has demonstrated precisely the type of commitment to customer satisfaction that is needed in today’s competitive, modern world of manufacturing. 

GSC Packaging: Amazing Job Growth and the Inc. 500

  • September 27, 2013

In the world of economic development, the high-profile business-attraction announcements get the headlines. But existing business expansion is every bit, if not more important, to a community’s economic vitality.

Consider the case of Atlanta-based GSC Packaging. As recently as 2010, the company had 40 employees. But by listening to its customers, winning new contracts, and investing in new plant and equipment, the company now employs 300 people.

To accommodate that growth, GSC opened a100,000 square-foot plant with 15 production line in early 2013. Discrete packaging suites prevent cross-contamination of products. Computerized inventory controls, and advanced air-handling and dust control capabilities are other important features.

Because packaging is a critical element in a product’s brand, GSC works closely with clients on the front end to ensure that the packaging solution complements the companies’ marketing objectives, as well.  

GSC Packaging’s phenomenal growth earned it a spot on the Inc. 500 list announced in September 2013 – just another reason this company has a Great Manufacturing Story to tell.

Cummins: World’s Most Powerful Diesel Engine

  • November 6, 2011

Cummins Inc. has been manufacturing engines in Seymour, Indiana, since 1976. This past week, the company announced that it will begin production of the world’s most powerful, high-speed diesel engine starting in 2013. More than 150 engineers are developing the new WSK95 engine in Seymour.

This next-generation engine will be suited for high-hour, high-load applications in passenger and freight locomotives, marine vessels and haul trucks in the mining industry. Benefits, according to Cummins, will include higher levels of equipment uptime, a longer life-to-overhaul cycle, and more cost-effectiveness than larger medium-speed engines.  Adding further to this Great Manufacturing Story, the engine will comply with EPA’s final Tier 4 emissions standards, which take effect in 2015.

The United States is a global leader in the design and production of high-power engines.  The WSK95 will help strengthen that status for years to come.