The concept of using stone as a source material for paper is not new. Back in 1998, Taiwan Lung Men Technology Co. founded stone paper. Unlike today’s subject, LIMEX who’s version is made from limestone, Taiwan’s was created using marble. While it’s proven useful for paper materials that need to be waterproofed—like maps, field notebooks, outdoor signage, underwater notebooks, and even garbage bags—it’s faced a number of obstacles that have prevented it from being mass-adopted. For example:
- It cannot be subjected to heat, which means it can’t be used for printing.
- It will not absorb water, so it’s not suitable for use in homes for toilet or tissue paper.
- It costs 20% more than regular paper.
The idea for LIMEX came about in 2010, two years after TBM struggled with the sale of Taiwan’s stone paper after importing it. According to TBM’s Corporate Planning Division General Manager, Taichi Yamaguchi, “The cost [of Taiwan’s stone paper] was not competitive and quality not good enough, so we changed from importing to in-house development and manufacturing and named the new innovative material LIMEX.”
And so founder and CEO Nobuyoshi Yamasaki set to work with partner “Yuichiro Sumi, a renowned authority in the paper industry, and together they came up with a new production method. In just nine months they succeeded in turning out a product that was light and stable in quality.”
In 2011, Yamasaki applied for LIMEX’s patent, which finally received approval in 2014. As they waited on patent approval, TBM worked on establishing a number of manufacturing facilities in Japan while generating funds that would eventually total $40.6 million by 2016. They now are currently looking to expand
What Is LIMEX?
LIMEX, as previously noted, is mostly composed of limestone. They’ve chosen limestone as their source material for a number of reasons, many of which serve an economic and ecological purpose:
- It takes fewer resources to create LIMEX paper than it does to create standard paper. According to their website, it takes 20 trees and 100 tons of water to create one ton of regular paper. LIMEX, on the other hand, does not need water or trees; one ton only relies on roughly .6 ton of limestone and .2 ton of polyethylene.
- According to Yamaguchi, “Conventional plastics use 100% resin from petroleum. LIMEX use only 30% resin from petroleum and 70% limestone.” It’s also cheaper to produce plastic made from LIMEX than petroleum.
- Limestone is abundantly available as well. China is currently the leading source of it. TBM actually set up their first facility in Shiroishi as limestone deposits are located an hour’s drive from the site, helping them to save money on importation.
- Because there is no reliance on water or pulp to create LIMEX, they want to build a global network of facilities in locations that could not otherwise profit from water-based manufacturing, like Saudi Arabia.
Of course, there are similarities between LIMEX’s paper and Taiwan’s paper; namely, they are both waterproof as well as tear-proof. LIMEX is also recyclable, which makes it a practically inexhaustible resource.
By offering a water-resistant, lightweight, and affordable alternative to tree-based paper and petroleum-based plastic, the people behind LIMEX believe they can provide a better future for humanity. TBM is also not the only one to make a note of this as both the company and the founder Yamasaki have been frequently lauded for their non-self-serving efforts to generate LIMEX. Awards include:
- The Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction Award
- The Social Impact Award from Plug and Play
- 2017 Stevie Winner for the Award for Excellence in Innovation in Manufacturing Industries
Will TBM Find More Success Than Their Predecessor?
In the future, TBM envisions a world where LIMEX won’t just replace paper and plastic. It is their hope that their limestone-based material will eventually be used for other applications, like buildings, cars, clothing, medical devices, robots, and more.
Yamaguchi sees a number of other real world applications for LIMEX for the near future:
“Right now, we are talking with paper and plastic manufacturers and working with big printing companies. Because the cost of raw materials in LIMEX is less expensive, there is huge potential for manufacturers in many different industries. Even for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it could be used in many places, for example, posters, stadium seats and so on.”
He also stated that they’re expanding their company’s presence around the globe not just for manufacturing, but also for generating interest from venture capital companies. That’s why they recently opened their first office overseas in San Francisco.
Nearly two decades after the creation of stone paper, it’s important to consider whether or not TBM’s take on stone paper will fare any better than their predecessor. With their current state of funding and expansion and their idealistic look to the future, it does appear that they’ve learned from the shortcomings of the first form of stone paper. They do also have a realistic outlook regarding who they intend to serve, noting that “LIMEX will be attractive not only for high-value products but also as a new material to replace paper.”
I want to establish a stone paper plant in India. can you help me out with the same ?
Mary Baker says
Rock paper scissors! 🙂
Paul Miller says
Every 10 year or so there is something that has to come along and put a road block into otherwise routine industries. THIS is doing exactly that.
John Dillon says
Only having to use 70% petro, I am sure that would disrupt the oil industry. If that is the case, there will be little chance that we see this product on the market worldwide anytime soon.
Doris Williams says
There are not many industries that can say they offer a product that is lighter, costs less, is better for the environment AND, and is higher quality. Very impressive.
Sarah Rohrbach says
Paper is still a major industry in the United States and the world. Being able to cut the costs to produce it and give companies a lot of options to use it, can really shape the economy for the better.
William Martinez says
Posters and things like that? I fear the graphics printed on plastic right now could be in for a world of hurt. If the Limex can hold up to sunlight and things like that, a thicker piece of paper could take over where plastic might have done better in the past. Especially if the cost is less.
Samuel Overbeck says
You got that right. Paper has always been the reason plastic gets used, then doesn’t, then does. This should make things a little more interesting.
Rose Jones says
This could change the entire graphics industry 100%!
Kevin Medlin says
How do you figure on that?
Hazel Scott says
Exactly. There is a lot of graphic arts out there that have to do with paper. If this is cheaper, that will make a difference.
David Wallace says
Other than the obvious reduction in resources to make the Limex, what is the draw for the consumer?
Gladys Follis says
That fact that it will be for sale, that is just my guess. Another product on the shelf and SHOULD be cheaper because of the lowered costs associated with it.
Kimberly Lewis says
Hmm, all of this is very interesting. I just do not see the need for other “paper” products when so many things in life are going away from paper. However, I am NOT the expert.
Ruben Smith says
So, we came up with a new product in a market that is gliding away from paper and you listed three things that will make it hard to market. What is the point?
Katherine Acosta says
I work in the plastics industry and for graphics and advertising the plastic is great. However, we see dips and climbs when the price of paper goes up and down so if this type of thing is really as cheap as they say, it could ruin things like that for the other platforms.