Imagine sitting in a sauna for nearly an hour, waiting to see if a bunch of fibers glued together will remain that way when subjected to extreme heat…For many people it might signal the end. Time to stop chasing the dream. But for Chris Reutelingsperger, co-inventor of Niaga technology, it was just another obstacle in a long - and unconventional - scientific journey.
“I grew up on a farm where you cannot afford to waste things – whether it’s energy or raw materials,” he explains. “Working in the carpet industry it struck me that there must be a way of applying those same principles in order to make a fully recyclable carpet.”
Years of development work followed, Chris was on the verge of financial ruin on more than one occasion; but refusing to give up he was eventually offered major venture funding for the commercial development of Niaga…but on one key condition: For the concept to work he still needed to find a special glue, capable of binding different carpet fibers together…that was also fully recyclable.
Which brings us back to the sauna and Chris’ peculiar ‘trial & error’ experiment.
“We rounded up all the companies out there that we thought could provide an adhesive that might work …and simply got on the phone to them,” he recalls. Chris eventually found DSM and together they developed a promising solvent-free adhesive, but before scaling-up production he first needed to see how it performed in the blistering heat of manufacturing conditions. Why not use his home sauna?
“It’s one of many unusual situations I’ve found myself in,” he laughs. “But it’s surprising the lengths you will go to when you believe in something. Once I saw that the glue worked in the heat of the sauna, I knew that the Niaga concept was going to be viable.”
He was right.
See Chris’ video about the challenges he faced in scaling-up a waste free carpet technology.