By Eric Peterson | May 01, 2015
Waterless Textile Cleaning for Industry
CEO Richard Kinsman is bringing an innovative waterless textile cleaning and processing technology to market for several different industries.
When water is scarce, liquid carbon dioxide offers a way to clean fabrics without it. TERSUS Solutions has launched CO2Nexus, a line of water-free washing machines that also offer a new way of looking at performance textiles.
The current iteration of the company is "version 2.0 of this platform," says Kinsman. He was involved in the first version of the technology in the early 1990s as "a very junior guy," then went into venture capital.
CTO Steve Madsen was "one of the ones who made it successful," says Kinsman. The pair teamed to launch TERSUS Solutions with Feyecon, a Dutch company, in 2009. "Steve had a lot of practical know-how and the Dutch folks are the scientific side," he explains.
"It's a completely different model," he says. "We see it as an upstream process where water is the major constraint." The end result? "We can do it more efficiently with less water."
The TERSUS process is similar to traditional machine cleaning, except the water is replaced by liquid carbon dioxide -- converted from gas via pressurization -- and that means different technology and different chemicals. The process involves very low temperatures, a plus for the garments' lifespan, and requires only 20 minutes and no drying time.
It's green: After distilling out contaminants from the carbon dioxide, "99 percent of it is available for reuse," says Kinsman.
TERSUS is manufacturing with RK Mechanical in Denver after working with other partners. The exclusive deal was inked earlier in 2015. "RK's a big company. They can crank them out," touts Kinsman.
"It's our first real commercial year," says Kinsman, forecasting eight orders by December. "We'll basically double production every year after that."
The short-term plan involves a scaling of sales, distribution, and installation.
The price of one unit varies "by application to application and market to market," says Kinsman. "There's a chemical side to it that's different in every market."
Take outdoor apparel. Kinsman sees TERSUS providing a service for big brands to apply and reapply waterproofing and other performance treatments. "Patagonia is an investor in our company now," he says.
Outdoor companies are looking to phase out DWR (durable water repellent), Kinsman adds. "It's not great stuff from a health or environmental standpoint," he says. "They're looking for something else." Applying and re-applying a greener treatment might be preferable. "We're not just cleaning and sterilizing -- we're adding a coating," says Kinsman of the process.
The other TERSUS target markets are industrial laundry and military, with a special niche in supplying technology to provide garb for clean rooms. "They have very specialized needs," says Kinsman.
These verticals add up to massive sales potential. "It's a huge, huge market," says Kinsman. "It's over $100 billion."
Kinsman says 2015 is a big year for the company. "Phase one was development. We're in phase two, the positioning phase. Phase three is growth."
Challenges: "We've got very big barriers to entry," says Kinsman. "There's supply chain issues and service issues and distribution issues."
Opportunities: With three target markets (industrial laundry, military, and outdoor), Kinsman sees no shortage of opportunities. "Any one of these segments is $10s of billions," he says. "They're all kind of lining up this year." He points to Patagonia, an upcoming military deployment, and a launch with a big industrial laundry operation in the spring.
Needs: "We need to find assembly service partners in different parts of the world," says Kinsman. Lining up supply chains in Europe and Asia, likewise, "is not an insubstantial effort."