The word innovation is commonly used to mean a new method, product, idea, or in general, the introduction of something new. In today’s business environment innovation is critical to companies of all sizes, and The CEO Views Magazine selected Tyromer as one of the Most Innovative Companies of 2019 based on their past work, future vision, and overall mentality of employees.
In short, Tyromer is a clean tech company focused on recycling and returning scrap tire rubber back into new tires. In the tire recycling industry, multiple developments have been made of late and new uses for crumb rubber (ground-up scrap tire rubber) are being identified regularly. However, in terms of innovation, the tire recycling industry has needed to find not just new uses for crumb rubber, but a new method and overall mindset of recycling.
A new method
For years, a rubber regeneration process known as devulcanization has been piquing interest in the tire and rubber industry but historically has not been able to reach a commercially viable scale and quality. When tires are manufactured, numerous ingredients are added to rubber which is then exposed to high heat. Sulfur is one of those ingredients, and when heated with rubber it creates very strong and durable bonds which are perfect for demanding products like tires. This process is called vulcanization.
De-vulcanization then, involves the preferential breaking of those strong sulfur bonds while leaving rubber molecules intact, allowing old tire rubber to be reused once again in manufacturing new tires. The process inherently enables a circular economy, where goods are recycled and reused for their originally intended purpose.
Tyromer is at the forefront of devulcanization development and leads the global movement toward/ closes the loop on a truly circular economy for tires. Professor Costas Tzoganakis of the University of Waterloo in Canada developed a non-chemical, thermo-mechanic devulcanization process which has been scaled up by Tyromer to a commercially viable output. The standard Tyromer devulcanization line employs a twin-screw extruder, can process ~700kg/hour, and further development should continue to increase output in the future.
This devulcanized rubber, which is called Tire-Derived Polymer or TDP, has dynamic properties and is a functional material as opposed to a filler. Because of this, TDP can be reused in new tire manufacturing and can generally replace 15-30% of new, virgin material in tires in both tread and sidewall applications. TDP can also be used to replace new material in a variety of other applications such as conveyor belts, automotive parts, and other molded rubber goods. Professor Tzoganakis continues to drive development as Tyromer’s Chief Technology Officer as the Company expands its footprint and looks to make a true impact on the problem of scrap tires.
Innovation is also a mentality
Although innovation is used synonymously with a new technology, the term means much more to a small growing company such as Tyromer. Because of their small size, each employee plays an important role and is encouraged to speak up and present new ideas or differing perspectives.
Innovation is a new way of doing things, new ideas to reach old goals, and an overall mindset that is always moving forward and working for continuous improvement. Innovation is thinking about work after hours not because you’re forced to, but because the subject matter is genuinely interesting and solving problems is a stimulating part of the job, and one’s life and mindset in general. It requires thinking outside-the-box or outside of individual columns of thought; innovation crosses departments and products, and oftentimes is stumbled upon incidentally. Innovation is making connections and inferences from everyday experiences and observations; it’s lying awake at night thinking about potential solutions. At Tyromer it can plague those who take ownership of their work, yet drives business and industry forward at an accelerated pace.
Keeping both eyes open
While at times we all must put our heads down and focus, it’s important to pay attention to peripheral vision – keep open not just our eyes, but also our minds to solutions which are not always linear or obvious. Although progression to a circular economy in tires is underway, there is still so much work and development to come. Tyromer refrains from the “it’s not broken, so why fix it?” mentality and truly embraces and encourages innovation, in the many shapes and forms it takes.