Our story and vision
Trifilon’s business is providing a more sustainable alternative to large-scale producers of plastic, but the roots of the company lie in high-tech, carbon-fiber super-vehicles. In 2006 at Linköping University, a pair of researchers were scratching their heads about how to make a more recyclable carbon fiber material. Carbon fiber is used widely in aerospace and motorsports industries not to mention the military and civil engineering because it has a number of material advantages including high stiffness, high tensile strength, and low weight. Unfortunately, its manufacture is energy intensive, and it’s a difficult material to recycle. The researchers’ idea then was to discover those material advantages in an organic, renewable feedstock – hemp – which they could use to reinforce a plastic. Hemp is a plant whose fibers have high stiffness, high tensile strength, and low weight to aid the rapid growth of that long, thin plant. That would be as opposed to wood fibers, which are optimal for supporting heavy, slow-growing plants, namely, trees. Hemp fibers also blend well with polymers through processes that the researchers discovered and patented. Perhaps most importantly, hemp fibers have low density meaning the new hybrid composites were often as strong and lighter than what they replaced.
The initial prototyping was intended for futuristic, super-fast vehicles. Imagine the sorts of high-powered machines that Wayne Enterprises produced in a Batman movie, only these were being designed in barns in the Swedish countryside. Company co-founder Martin Lidstrand, who was involved in this initial prototyping, saw great potential in the material because it had solved the initial problem to become more environmentally friendly while not sacrificing material performance. He decided to buy the patents in 2012 and create a registered company with partner Jeremiah Dutton who had sold windmills in the Nordics for Siemens. The two spent the following years showing off their wonder materials and making contacts with manufacturers and industry people. In 2014 they worked on a project with Volkswagen Rally, which led to a collaboration with the large automotive supplier Plastal who was interested in making lightweight exterior parts on a larger scale.
In this process of discovery - in meeting and hearing the needs of plastics-people in boardrooms and at trade-show stands - the co-founders realized that the problem that had spurred the initial research, finding something more sustainable that performed as well, was really a problem that all makers face in taking the first baby steps towards greener economies. Their material technology, first intended for high-performance vehicles, solved the problem. Because it had outstanding mechanical properties, was consistent and easily processible, it could be adapted to suit the commercial needs of high-volume plastic producers. If they wanted to make a ding in the universe, they thought, they ought to figure out how to start making all plastics more recyclable, those used in shampoo caps, car bumpers, luggage, and the hidden bits in vacuum cleaners. In 2017 Trifilon’s material hit the store shelves at a commercial scale. Real customers could buy products with Trifilon inside.
Things took off because of the strength of that business idea. The company gained attention from a number of large companies in a variety of industries. Trifilon has been written about in trade and green-tech publications, has won speaker engagements, and has received mention in mainstream news outlets. In 2016 Trifilon was ranked as one of the top clean-tech companies in the Nordics by the Nordic Cleantech Open. In 2017 the investment bank Carnegie and newspaper SvD selected Trifilon as a Framtidens Entreprenör (Entrepreneur of the Future). In 2018 the company was invited to participate in a panel discussion in Brussels about the future of sustainable business. It has received visits from Swedish politicians interested in the prospects for job creation, riding on the tide of a green turn in Nordic markets.
To strengthen its sustainability merits and maintain control over production standards, in 2017 Trifilon made the strategic decision to move all production in-house and establish a pilot processing facility in Nyköping at striking distance from the knowledge-pool in Stockholm. In late 2017 the company closed a seed-level funding round to finance the plant and secure initial customers. The company is currently scaling up production capacity, establishing partnerships with global distributors, and closing deals with more manufacturers. Look out for sustainable-choice plastics on shelves in the near future with Trifilon's tag announcing it.