The transformative metal startup is thinking bigger these days. Much bigger.
By Eli Epstein, contributor
FORTUNE -- With numerous venture capital awards and an impending joint venture with Steel Dynamics (STLD) under its belt, Modumetal has kept the snags to a minimum since it competed in last year's Startup Idol competition at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference.
The five-year-old Seattle-based startup is making its name with a unique scientific approach that quite literally redesigns metal, dissolving various existing pieces in acid, adding electrical charges to the mixture, and creating what it calls "nanolaminates," extremely durable and light metal composites that have the strength of structural steel and the density of aluminum. They're also fairly inexpensive to produce, and they eliminate hefty steel production costs and improve fuel efficiency in cars and jetliners by reducing the weight of structural parts.
"We believe our vision will have a dramatic effect on the adoption of nanomaterials," says Modumetal CEO Christina Lomasney, a Boeing (BA) alum who co-founded the company with John Whitaker in 2006. "We're attempting to raise the bar and recognize that nanomaterials have capabilities that far outperform conventional materials."
Since pitching at last year's Brainstorm Tech, Lomasney has been raising awareness and promoting the benefits of nanolaminates across all industries. A joint venture with U.S. carbon steel giant Steel Dynamics is also in the works, and while Lomasney would not discuss the partnership in detail, she did say that Modumetal is currently closing its Series B round of funding and that Steel Dynamics would be an investor. The company previously announced that it would contribute its coating system to Steel Dynamics's own steel, one of Modumetal's first large "scale-up" operations.
Earlier on, Modumetal dealt heavily in government contracts and commercial partnerships that produced propulsion and land vehicle parts for the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and nanolaminated plane part coatings for Naval Air Systems Command. But the company's materials can also be found in guardrails on the Washington State highway system, as well as in that state's ferry terminals, and according to Lomasney, the Modumetal hopes to broaden its business into the automotive and transportation sectors even further. To that end, the company recently added Rebecca Yeatman, a former GM (GM) and Ford (F) engineer, who's helping the team develop corrosion-resistant coatings that will prolong the life of bridges, and pipelines, as well lightweight alloys to make plane and cars part lighter.
It's a win-win if Modumetal's expansion succeeds. For Lomasney, it means the deeper realization of her ambitious vision, but for companies and civilians, it means something else: better, safer infrastructures and services that are easier on the pocket, too.
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