Massive ROI, Green Benefits when Recycling IPA with Persyst’s Sidewinder Model M-2
Persyst Enterprises has been selling solvent recovery systems for nearly 35 years, but the company’s initial forays into 3D printing and dental industries were more recent—and unplanned.
“They found me,” Persyst CEO Michael Lawson says with a chuckle.
Persyst has traditionally worked with commercial paint and finish contractors, automotive paint and finish users, and several other industries to recycle a wide variety of solvents—including isopropyl alcohol (IPA). When a number of companies began 3D printing test swabs en masse during the COVID-19 pandemic, they contacted Lawson to recycle their IPA, the cost of which had skyrocketed to more than $60 per gallon.
“IPA became a precious commodity,” Lawson says. “Additionally, these companies have waste on hand. They were in a bind to both dispose of their used IPA and purchase more. We fit in quickly.”
Soon after, word made its way to a few dental laboratories. Once again, Lawson says, the fit was perfect.
“Dental laboratory owners have told me it is a real problem solver for them,” he says. “One person said, ‘If you get your name out there, you will find that every one of us needs this.’”
Persyst’s Sidewinder Model M-2 is a sleek, compact machine that is simple to use. The user collects used solvent, places it in a large metal bucket with a special liner, puts the bucket into the machine, closes the latch, and presses the “On” button. The machine warms the solvent until it turns to vapor, which expands and then moves to a lower chamber, where a refrigeration condensing system is triggered to remove the heat and turn the vapor back into a cool, clean solvent.
“It is a distillation process,” Lawson says, “so no impurities are carried over.”
The machine operates so subtly that one new user recently called Lawson, believing it was not working. Lawson assured him that all machines are tested with five real batches before being shipped, and that Persyst averages only about one warranty claim every 3 years.
“You cannot hear it unless you listen closely, but it is doing what it is doing,” he says.
The machine costs less than $5,000, and Lawson says most users achieve a return on investment within 6 months or fewer. Persyst’s website (solvent-recycler.com) features an ROI calculator that accounts for everything from the initial cost to the electricity the machine uses.
“If you buy a gallon for $10 but reuse it 10 times, it really cost you $1 per gallon,” Lawson says. “Then, if it costs you $10 per gallon to dispose of, but you can reduce the amount of waste by 90%, that saves money as well. The numbers really work. A lot of people think it’s not possible to save that much money.”
The machines often last 20 to 30 years, Lawson adds, noting that one user recently told him it had saved them more than $200,000 over the course of 15 years.
“Any accountant will tell you that is a good ROI,” Lawson says.
In addition to the cost savings, the Sidewinder Model M-2 is extremely environmentally friendly. Used solvents are hazardous wastes, and the companies generating them are responsible under federal law for the safe disposal of these wastes. The Sidewinder Model M-2 reduces the volume of hazardous materials onsite and all but eliminates the need to transport liquid waste. It also reduces the need for IPA production globally. Even the gasoline and emissions that are saved from transporting less waste are significant.
“When we first started, we thought the environmental benefits would sell the product,” Lawson says. “In reality, the cost savings are the No. 1 reason why people buy our machines. However, as environmental consciousness increases, we will be right on that wagon, because our machine definitely helps the environment.”
Of course, some 3D printer manufacturers have tried to shift away from using IPA to wash printed products. Lawson concedes that anything is possible, but he says he has heard about using water as an IPA substitute since the first day he put a machine on the market in 1987. More than 3 decades later, IPA remains widely used, and Lawson says Persyst is happy to continue helping users recycle it.
“We are a small, family business, and we are happy with what we do,” Lawson says. “We believe in treating people the way we would like to be treated, and anybody who knows me knows they can always pick up the phone and I will spend as much time as it takes for them to be satisfied.”