Friday, May 13, 2005

Courtesy of Alan Rae and Howard Lovy

Old-school networking at NSTI
Blogger's Note: Alan Rae, vice president for market and business development at Nanodynamics Inc. (they do the nano golf balls), must have decided it's time to end his career and pursue his dream of becoming a chicken rancher far, far away. Why else would such a sober businessman volunteer to guest blog on NanoBot? So, before he realizes what he has done, I'd better go ahead and run this. Thank you, Alan, for offering your impressions of NSTI 2005. -- Howard
By Alan Rae VP for Market and Business Development Nanodynamics Inc. NanoBot Correspondent
Well, I just finished three days at the NSTI Nanotech 2005 show in Anaheim. It was held in the conference center in the Marriott, notable for being a Faraday cage (intended or unintended) that prevents cellphones and BlackBerries from working except in the areas where people are operating lawnmowers and leaf blowers…
This was my second NSTI, the first I attended and enjoyed was in Boston last year. The reason I came this year was to see how it had grown. Boy has it grown!
The booth area was much bigger than last year. The biggest booths were the national “pavilions” for Ireland and Australia, most companies were in 10x10 booths. Still not a lot of real “stuff” for sale and a lot of great concepts -- some way from commercialization.
The conference was the main event here and was very busy. Up to nine concurrent sessions! A mixture of science projects, shameless self-promotion and really good stuff. Great receptions, plenty of networking and inventors, VCs, startups and big companies mixing it up. The networking at this show is unparalleled.
Does it pay to go there? Well we gave two papers and had a booth. The papers were well attended by big audiences (standing at the back several deep in some), feedback was good and they generated serious booth traffic. We were totally swamped at the booth for the two full days, so I struggled to attend technical sessions and side meetings.
Part of the attraction was the diversity. This nano thing really works the linkages between chemistry, physics and the life sciences. I came away with more than 100 cards and talked real applications for our products in areas as diverse as cosmetics, building products, composites, space flight and electronics ranging from TVs to cellphones. For us it was great. I actually got a bruised hand from handshaking.
Boston next year should be even better. I’ll wear more comfortable shoes. And I know I can get my BlackBerry to work there!
Alan LAX
posted by Howard Lovy @ 5/12/2005 06:14:00 AM

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Media Mania

It's been an interesting week for nanotechnology in the news. The February 16th issue of Business Week hit newstands with a cover article on nanotechnology. CNBC's Squawk Box has also been front and center starting with Friday's interview of Sean Murdock, the Director of the Nanobusiness Alliance (of which NanoDynamics is a member). Sean was discussing the government's role in supporting the nanotechnology research and did a good job fending off a couple of pot shots by the show's hosts; they seemed predisposed to dismiss nanotech as too much of a fade which Mark countered nicely. Monday was my "15 minutes of fame" (actually only 4 minutes) discussing the business and markets being affected by nanotech and, of course, spending some time talking about the NDMX golf ball. By all reports, I succeeded in my primary objective - to avoid making a complete fool of myself. Tuesday evening saw Mark Modzelewski of Lux Research on Bull's Eye discussing the Wall Street prospects for nanotech companies which was followed by Matthew Nordan, Lux Capital, on Wednesday morning's Squawk Box discussing the likely companies to go public in 2005.

What does all this exposure mean? It's hard to say, but I am sure that there are lots of early stage companies happy to have nanotechnology back in the news and mostly with a positive spin so that they can convince friends, family, and VCs to invest in their future. My own view is that the more it is discussed, the less threatening it will seem and the better the chances that we can continue a rational discussion and debate on things like environmental and regulatory issues, health effects, and export controls. As they say in the business, let's stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Forbes/Wolfe Top 10 Nanotech Products of 2004

The December 2004 issue of Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report is out and the lead article is the Top 10 Nanotech Products of 2004. Naturally, I was delighted to see our NDMX golf ball front and center on page 1, but as I read through the article, several things stood out. First, unlike many historical technological advances, the application of nanotechnology into consumer products would appear to be leading the military and defense applications (at least as measured by this list!). Of the 10 products selected, 8 are arguably directed towards the consumer market; 1 is for the military (EcoTru nanoemulsive disinfectant cleaner), and 1 is a medical use product (nanosilver burn dressings from Nucryst). I'm not exactly sure what this implies, but having spent nearly all of my career selling to industrial and military customers, the idea of selling to the consumer market is both exhilirating and frightening at the same time. The markets are enormous (800 million golf balls a year!) but very fickle and demanding. The second thing that struck me was the preponderance of nanomaterial as the enabling technology. Aerogels (footwarmers), nano-treated fabrics and fibers (washable mattress top), fullerenes (golf club head), nanosilver (burn dressings), nanoparticles (in emulsions for disinfectants, in sprays for hydrophobic coatings, and as fillers for dental adhesives), and nanostructured films (glass treatment). Those who think that the materials business is going to quickly become "commoditized" are mistaken, in my opinion. The performance of these new products cannot be achieved with conventional materials and, as a result, the value proposition of the nanomaterials is very strong and will likely remain that way for years to come. Last, but not least, it was interesting to note that the top 10 products came from companies ranging from relatively small newcomers like NanoDynamics to long-time corporate giants like 3M and BASF.

The same day that the Frobes/Wolfe report came out, Kevin Maney published an article in USA Today predicting what gifts folks might be buying around the holidays in 2010. Steve Waite, a good friend and advisor to NanoDynamics, was mentioned in the article. To read more, go to:

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Lux Report: NanoBuyers Beware

I have only seen the Executive Summary of Lux's report. However, it should come as no surprise that there are disparate expectations at this early stage of a new material's or technology's introduction between the suppliers and potential users. The past 50 years are rife with similar stories from the plastics, electronics, semiconductor, composites, and ceramics industries. The problems, quite often, relate to a lack of information on both sides - potential users may not have a clear way of describing what they want in a new material or how they expect the product to be characterized and tested. Nanomaterials suppliers are offering to sell what they can make today, which is not always what the market needs and, as importantly, they often can only make it in laboratory or pre-pilot quantities.

That said, it also is no surprise that most of the 200 companies that Lux refers to are struggling in terms of satisfying expectations. Taking a new process technology or material out of the laboratory (where most of these 200 companies began) and setting it up even at a pilot level is not always a straightforward task. Going beyond that to commercial scale is even more challenging; but vitally important if you want to offer customers the quality and economics that they are getting from their current (conventional) materials suppliers.

NanoDynamics, and a handful of others, are already succeeding in creating commercial nanomaterial businesses. As a nanomaterials supplier, from the very beginning, we focused on manufacturing processes that were commercially scalable and which were able to deliver consistent and economical nanomaterials. Our first nanometal production line has a capacity of roughly 100,000 kgs per year. One of our very first hires was a Director of Quality to ensure that our processes and products were delivering what the market, in general, and our prospective customers, in particular, were looking for. We have extensive process and product documentation to ensure that we deliver on our promises and that our customers understand what they are getting.

We also spend considerable time understanding how these materials are going to be used by customers, what acceptance tests and standards they are going to apply in evaluating our materials, and reaching agreement on how to achieve targeted economics (by modifying specifications to improve manufacturing costs, by agreeing on long term supply arrangements, etc.). In other words, we approach the nanomaterials business with a "market-pull" orientation and not a "technology-push" one.

The materials business is not an easy one, as many companies are learning. Each customer has their own set of requirements, each testing method has its own quirks, each application has its own sensitivity to one materials' characteristic or another, qualification cycles are long and expensive, and customers generally do not want to look at a new material unless they understand the commercial availability and economics - all of which are challenging issues when a material is first introduced. Close cooperation, coordination, and communication between the supplier and user side of this equation is critical - a lesson learned from a quarter century in the advanced materials business.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


As many of you know, NanoDynamics was recently in the news with the publication of an article in USA Today entitled "Nanotech Could Put a New Spin on Sports".

The interest and response to mention of our new golf ball product has been so strong that we decided it was time to create an informal way to exchange news, ideas, comments, and information with those of you interested in nanotechnology, golf, and all points in between! So, another blog is born! We look forward to communicating with you through this electronic forum and hope to keep it fresh with regular updates and posts. Check back frequently.

Keith Blakely, CEO

The NDMX Golf Balls - Available in early 2005  Posted by Hello