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MicroStrate turns e-waste into sheet for signage, displays

By: Frank Antosiewicz

February 13, 2013

KYLE, TEXAS -- MicroStrate Inc. is turning recycled computer parts and other plastic waste into stops signs and other signage at its 100,000-square-foot facility that recently opened in Kyle.

MicroStrate is a trademarked material that was developed by Image Microsystems Inc., a reverse logistics company in Austin. Last year, the companies bought a building in Kyle and now the subsidiary is recycling and turning out the new product.

"As the company evolved, one of the challenges was our zero landfill effort. What do you do with the items and is it possible to create something else? We thought we had a solution and that's our ability to make a product," said Image Chief Operating Officer Lennie Myers, who is also business director for MicroStrate.

The recycled e-waste is providing material that MicroStrate is turning into various stop and street signs, and that market is growing, Myers said in a phone interview. He said Micro­Strate has provided signage for the city of Kyle, as well as for cities in other states, and even Russia.

Image Microsystems purchased the building in Kyle about a year ago and, according to Myers, it needed an extensive retrofit for use by the startup company. The new setup has the ability to recycle plastics that can be extruded into 4-by-8-foot sheets, or longer. The sheets can be used as substrate for signage. The operation currently employs about 50 on-site and is planning to run 24/7 in the future.

Myers said the firms have been working with state departments of transportation to test and use the signs and are receiving orders for them. The substrate can be printed on simply through a flat printer, or used with 3-D printers. The sheets can be shaped with routers, he said.

The material was used in three display kiosks at a recent conference and the application has garnered plenty of interest, according to Myers. The kiosks were covered with graphics and cut-aways created space for TV monitors that gave more information about the product.

"It is very, very versatile," he said. "Our problem is not finding target markets, but in getting the right focus and getting the factory running 24/7 for sheets to meet the demand," he said.

Myers said the company does both recycling and manufacturing at the plant. Image has worked with Texas Tech University in Lubbock for many years to develop the material, he said.

Both Image Microsystems and MicroStrate strive to work with their communities, Myers said. They have had a relationship with the Texas School for Deaf, based in Austin, whereby juniors and seniors can work in half-day internship programs at the companies; some have stayed to become full-time employees, he said.

Image Microsystems works with big-box stores as well computer companies to handle their products after customers are done with them. Image was formed in 1992 in City of Commerce, Calif., and also has operations in Austin. The firm works to keep products out of landfills, and now, by finding new uses for e-waste, it helps companies reduce their ecological footprints as well.