Glass is quite possibly the most green and environmentally friendly material known to man. Glass is stable, sanitary, reusable and recyclable and it can be remelted and reformed limitless times. Not all glass is created equal though, some glass is not recycled and simply sorted out and thrown into the landfills in the millions of pounds per year!
There are two main types of glass used in our society. The first is known as Soda-Lime glass and, by far, is the most common. It is made into bottles, table tops, mirrors, picture frame glass and many other items. Soda-Lime glass is freely and easily recycled. No problem!
The second major type that we use is known as Borosilicate glass. Borosilicate is a "stronger" glass and is commonly known by its original trade name of "Pyrex". Borosilicate is made into lab ware (like test tubes) , technical glass and cook ware.
Borosilicate is interesting because the Soda-Lime glass recycling industry considers it to be equivalent to NUCLEAR TOXIC WASTE. The Soda-Lime glass industry takes great pains to sort and reject borosilicate from the glass waste stream. Once sorted, this borosilicate glass is simply thrown into the landfills! The State of California has even recently funded a $50 million dollar technology project to develop sorting machines that automatically reject borosilicate glass from the recycle stream.
Enter astronomy, telescopes and us:We like borosilicate glass! It is the perfect material for for manufacturing reflecting telescope mirrors (which is what we do). The current state of the industry is to purchase new glass (at exorbitant prices) spend lots of energy molding it into discs so it can be made into optical components.
Something kinda new: Eight years ago we began researching a method to make our products using less glass but delivering the same performance and we found it in technology invented over 100 years ago. This technology was used in the construction of the, then largest telescope in the world, the Hale Telescope. Back then molten borosilicate glass was hand poured into a special mold that made a honeycomb pattern in the structure of the mirror, decreasing its weight and the amount of the material it uses by 50%. We decided that this was the technology for us and we set to work duplicating it with modern materials and techniques.
After years of experiments and testing of the finished product, we are ready to bring this technology to market. Our product is lighter, uses less material and less expensive to market. It is superior to the state of the art in every way and our current customer base is waiting for us to launch the product.
We have already produced limited quantities of mirrors and blanks using this technology. Here are examples of those mirrors.
Free glass: While experimenting and developing our own process we discovered that our material of choice is considered un-recycleable by industry. We also found that those companies that work with borosilicate glass pay to have their waste glass disposed of. When we contacted several companies asking for their waste glass and they were more than happy to give us all the glass we can take from them. Soon we began getting calls from other companies almost begging us to take their glass off our hands. We even got phone calls from the local Environmental Protection Agency representative wanting to help connect us to other sources of waste borosilicate.
Obviously there is something big and green here!
We have developed a process and product that is technically superior, lighter and less expensive to manufacture. Our material of choice is considered a waste product and is being buried in landfills in the thousands of tons every year. Those companies who have our material as waste are more than willing to give it to us at no cost, other than collecting it. Taken together, all of this is a match made in heaven! Our process saves energy and diverts material from the landfills. How green can it get?
Who are we and why we can do this: As with all technology development projects we worry about risk and if the people involved have the experience drive and facility to successfully execute the project. Our current company was founded in 2006 and has been successfully working in the field since then. The president of the company has been involved in the business for 14 years and has been involved in projects such as the development of the Tenagra Observatories .8m telescope, custom LIDAR's for Pacific Northwest National Labs and Dalhaousie University, Optics for Fermi Lab and other notables. Below you will find a video link showing an informal tour of our own facility. Hopefully this will give you the confidence that we are indeed a real company with the ability to execute this project.
What we need:
We've already done all the hard work of development of the process, we have designs, we have a shop and most of the equipment to produce this product. What we need now is to scale our production capacity, establish material collection and advertise the product.
In order to launch this program we are using the project concept of kick starter to raise enough funds to bootstrap this concept into production. We hope to make enough initial pre-sales in order to purchase the remaining materials and equipment necessary to get the ball rolling.
For NON astronomers: we are offering a couple of awards slanted towards the less technical folks and that many people would enjoy. Certainly these rewards will make nice gifts. Even though these rewards are not direct products of our project, we will still be making them using our kilns and our hot glass working capabilities, so you will have the connection to our final products and the good feeling that you helped to something good for the earth.
For astronomers and telescope builders: we are offering rewards of these highly engineered raw mirror blanks and finished mirrors in 12", 16" and 18" sizes. Our mirror blanks and mirrors are engineered to be only one third of the mass of a standard solid mirror blank and they thermally equalize 15 times faster. This means your mirror cools to ambient temperature in about 10 minutes instead of hours. We are offering these rewards as raw blanks that you can finish or have finished into a optic of your choice as well as offering them as finished and coated parabolic mirrors finished in our own optical shop.
With our Kickstarter funds we will:
*purchase a professional grade CNC router to cut the molds for the product production
*purchase collection glass bins for placement at glass donor factories
*purchase mold materials for the kickstarter rewards
*machine the molds for the kickstarter rewards
*execute the rewards
Please help us launch our product and to make the Earth a little greener!
Risks and challenges
As far as risks go, we think there are very few with this project. We have developed the process, acquired the necessary tools to make and test this process. We have even sold some of the product to Ball Aerospace and they are pleased. Most importantly, our continued operation is not dependent upon an immediate successful launch of the product. In other words, since we are a stable company we have staying power to make sure we bring this project to completion no matter how long it takes.
The supply of the waste borosiliacate is easy to source - our initial response was almost overwhelming. We have also been in communication with the California EPA office and they have an officer that is assigned to source the waste stream for us.
Our main challenge with the product will be getting the word out to the customer. In that regard, we will use a portion of the kickstarter funds for a marketing campaign. Also we will manufacture a run of product to be given as samples to wholesale customers that would use the product. We already have one multi-million dollar manufacturer waiting for the product to launch.
In short we have mitigated much of the risks by developing the technology and doing our homework well ahead of launching the kickstarter project.
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