‘Disruptive’ technology has roots in NMMU
Rubber Nano Products, a spin-off company of the NMMU was featured in The Herald supplement Business in the Metro on 30 November. Read the published article below: “I CAN categorically state that without the support of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, this project would have failed.” That is the word from Rubber Nano Products co-founder and technical director Robert Bosch. His company is “disrupting” the conventional rubber manufacturing process by replacing the toxic heavy metal zinc element with Actiwax as an additive for curing rubber. It is composed of a nano composite with an inert core of silica embedded in a rubber-compatible wax. Benefits to rubber manufacturers include lower energy costs, quicker turnaround times for moulds and reduced environmental impact. Bosch said a shoe manufacturer using the compound to cure rubber has, for example, identified unexpected savings. Because rubber cured with the compound comes out of the mould clean, the shoe manufacturer has been able to eliminate a whole step in the production process. With zinc as a curing agent, the soles had to be washed using toxic chemicals. Rubber Nano’s origins started at NMMU with research conducted by Bosch towards his doctoral thesis. “But NMMU’s support has been far more than just academic. It has been a whole entrepreneurial experience, with the university supporting us at every step.” That support is continuing through the Propella Incubator, which is home to the first Actiwax demonstration-scale production facility in South Africa. The project is also supported by the Technology Innovation Agency, which is funding the development of a new range of compounds for the tyre industry. Demand for the product is growing rapidly across a diverse range of markets.