Sordal Forms A New Manufacturer

January 19, 2005
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HOLLAND — Five years of research and development have set the stage for Sordal Inc. to begin bringing its new-age composite materials to the market for commercial applications.

After securing millions of dollars in federal grants since 1999 to develop lightweight, flame-resistant materials, Sordal recently licensed one patent to a German maker of specialty chemicals and has formed a spin-off company to manufacture another.

"We've gotten the product from a test-tube level to making first articles and samples, and now we're proving the capabilities of commercial-size applications. Now it's a matter of scaling up to large volume," Sordal Chairman and CEO Dale Danver said.

To bring one of those materials to market, Sordal has formed Armarex Inc. to produce an ultra-strong composite material of the same name that's lightweight and nonflammable. The Armarex material has potential uses in protective clothing for firefighters and as body armor, as well as in a honeycomb form for constructing military and civilian aircraft where weight is a driving factor in design.

"The possibilities are quite significant for the applications," Danver said.

Sordal, which will hold a 51 percent stake of Armarex Inc. and control all of its intellectual property, is presently seeking to raise $3 million to $5 million in capital through a variety of sources, including an ongoing private placement stock offering. Danver is seeking to hire a CEO for Armarex Inc. and expects to have a board of directors in place by June.

Danver says he has several potential customers for Armarex and is targeting production to begin in 2006 in a recently completed 15,000-square-foot addition to the company's Holland Township facility. His plan is to eventually build a separate production facility for Amarex Inc.

"We'll do a pilot plant to get up to a certain level and seed the market and see what the demand of the market will be," he said.

In the other venture, Sordal signed a licensing agreement in 2004 with Dusseldorf, Germany-based Degussa AG, the world's largest specialty chemical firm, to commercialize Solrex, Sordal's first-generation, lightweight, nonflammable material. Originally developed for NASA for the next-generation space shuttle, Solrex has initial commercial applications as insulation in aircraft and ships.

Sordal was paid by Degussa for the rights to produce Solrex and will receive royalty payments for 20 years, Danver said.

Licensing the technology to a multi-national corporation like Degussa AG will enable Sordal to bring Solrex and other materials to market faster, Danver said. The agreement with Degussa AG also can help to generate further business and lead to similar deals in the future to license out Sordal's intellectual property where possible, he said.

"Getting the respect of a large corporation like that is huge," Danver said.

Founded in 1999, Sordal has financed much of its research and development work through federal Small Business Innovation Research grants awarded through NASA and the Department of Defense. The company in five years has secured 10 grants totaling $5 million and has an equal amount in requests for proposals pending.

Danver's goal is to continue research and development of new composite materials and compile 100 active patents by the time he takes the company public in 2007 or 2008.    

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