Manufacturing has been a major contributor to carbon emissions through the years, but it can also be a major solution when done sustainably. This typically involves reducing emissions and carbon footprints by cutting waste and increasing the use of recyclable materials, bioplastics, renewable energy, and clean technologies.
There’s still a long way to go before sustainable manufacturing is mainstream. But there have been recent strides in investments in sustainable manufacturing processes.
One of the biggest moves occurred in May, when French multinational conglomerate Saint-Gobain announced plans to invest $100 million over the next two to three years to expand its CertainTeed roofing shingle manufacturing facility in Georgia, with a focus on sustainable manufacturing.
A couple of weeks later, Massachusetts startup Foundation Alloy said it raised $10.5 million in seed funding to help commercialize its vertically integrated metal parts manufacturing approach, which aims to reduce waste and save energy.
Saint-Gobain’s investment was made through its building products subsidiary, CertainTeed LLC. The money will more than double production capacity at its facility in Peachtree City, Georgia. Planned upgrades to the plant’s manufacturing equipment and building design are expected to contribute to a 14% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per production unit and reductions in water and energy consumption.
The expansion in Peachtree City will add more than 65,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space. It coincides with similar plans to expand Saint-Gobain’s facility in Dublin, Georgia. Both projects were bolstered by millions of dollars in tax credits and incentives from the State of Georgia.
Saint-Gobain is no newcomer to sustainable manufacturing. The company designs, manufactures, and distributes materials and services for the construction and industrial markets, focusing on decarbonizing the markets and making them more sustainable.
In addition to its Georgia investments, Saint-Gobainis is investing $32 million to upgrade equipment at its insulation plant in Chowchilla, California. That upgrade will expand the facility’s production capacity by 13% and significantly reduce its carbon footprint. Another project at the company’s gypsum wallboard plant in Vancouver, Canada, is expected to reduce the plant’s carbon emissions by 10%.
Foundation Alloy, a much smaller and younger company, aims to reinvent the metal parts manufacturing industry through proprietary alloy design technology from MIT and the University of California-Irvine. The goal is to reduce the time and energy it takes to fabricate metals while creating better outcomes and properties than legacy materials.
The company’s recent $10 million funding round was co-led by The Engine, the venture capital firm spun out of MIT that invests in early-stage “Tough Tech” companies. Others participating in the round were Boston-based VC firms Material Impact and Safar Partners. The money will go toward a pilot facility that aims to validate and demonstrate Foundation Alloy’s technology and value to customers. It will also be used to fuel plans to commercialize its approach to part production.
Foundation Alloy was co-founded in February 2022 by Jake Guglin, who serves as CEO, and Jasper Lienhard, Head of Research & Development. Other co-founders were professors Chris Schuh of MIT and Tim Rupert of UC-Irvine.
The company’s core intellectual property powers the design of metals with properties that can be tailored to specific applications across various industries, including aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, and industrial manufacturing. The materials are engineered to be more easily fabricated via advanced manufacturing to solve cost, speed, and quality issues that hold back the adoption of technologies such as 3D printing.
“Foundation Alloy sits at the crossroads of three critical societal challenges and opportunities: greener production is a global imperative, additive manufacturing is picking up speed, and U.S. manufacturing is a national priority,” Milo Werner, General Partner at The Engine, said in a press release. “The team’s combined scientific and industry expertise, coupled with its passion and readiness to take on something as transformational as reimagining the metal parts supply chain from the materials level up, is truly representative of what The Engine views as Tough Tech.”