Biomimetic File 178: Spider Silk Armor

Why sometimes AB is a better option than A or B

extra_large-1468857450-cover-imageImage Source: Matusiac Alexandru, Shutterstock. From a legal point of view, a merger* is a legal consolidation of two entities into one entity, whereas an acquisition occurs when one entity takes ownership of another entity’s stock, equity interests or assets.

Highlight: “The US Army is working with companies to develop a new resistant material…possibly the far superior successor to Kevlar, the bulletproof, life-saving material worn by combatants the world over – and it is made from spider silk, one of the strongest natural fibers known to science…Although spiders themselves normally produce this, making a cost-effective spider silk farm is notoriously difficult. After all, they don’t continuously produce silk, and certainly not enough to be harvested…Their transgenic silkworms have been producing a composite silk – as strong as spider silk but far easier to produce…The main advantage of this material over Kevlar is that it’s far more flexible and at least 10 times as elastic. Kevlar is essentially inflexible, whereas Dragon Silk could be wrapped around a variety of complex shapes.”

Insight: The process of deciding where to draw the line in terms of cultivating natural systems or shifting to re-engineered processes can be difficult. Both can offer significant advantages over the other such as cost effectiveness by relying on species do do the work or consistency in output of the engineered product (e.g. precise consistent dimension). The answer is probably a combination of the two; the future of manufacturing relies in more dependency on natural systems combined with engineered elements to improve upon the natural processes (and not to replace it altogether!). As a matter of fact, the full replacement of natural systems by engineered processes is often (if not always) an exaggerated simplification.

In more conventional business models it is not uncommon that situations require either a split or a merger. Both can have benefits over the other but in the end a merger is often synonymous to more stability and lesser risks.

For instance lets imagine the following scenario: A large industrial group in the life sciences industry has ambitious plans to expend its portfolio. For some time they have been on the look-out for two possible acquisitions of smaller companies, one in the DNA sequencers production and the other in the gene therapy and diagnostic. While the original plan was to acquire either one of them, after much consideration they decide that both are worth the investments. After successful acquisition of these two companies the direction is faced with another decision: to either keep them as two separate companies or to merge* the two into a single new company.  The merging of the two offers a stronger offering in terms of logistics (the sequencers are an integral part of the gene therapy business) and competitive advantage while keeping them as separate entities offers more freedom to operate, flexibility and more focus on individual business lines. In this particular case because of the geographical proximity of the two companies the decision was a merger which turned out financially beneficial…

Are you faced with a decision that would involve choosing two outcomes? A point to make here is that when faced with confusion, often the solution is neither A or B but a combination AB of some kind…

More information: here 

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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