“We made the application for the Agile fund in early December of 2017, we got approved by early January and we were up and running in February.”
Basil Cooney, Managing Director and Founder, LaserTec.
Case Study: LaserTec
LaserTec has always fostered a culture of innovation. Over 25 years in business, the Dublin engineering company has built an impressive reputation for excellence in electronic assembly tooling and process development. In particular, LaserTec has enjoyed outstanding success designing and manufacturing innovative test and automation solutions in the medical device and automotive industries.
Sometimes, however, it takes that little bit of extra support for a company to take the next big step. For LaserTec, that moment came when they decided to look into adding 3D capability to their services.
Focus on 3D gave LaserTec the power to scale
Basil Cooney, Managing Director and Founder of LaserTec, explains: “We use 2D vision in our applications for testing and quality checking components and parts on the production lines of our customers, but we wanted to start looking at adding that extra dimension of 3D capability.
“With 2D systems, you’re restricted in what you can measure – there’s X and Y but there’s no depth, so checking that certain components are in the right location, have the correct orientation, correct height is difficult to do. Also, our solutions are application-specific, so if you want to look at a different product or solve a different problem, you’re almost starting from scratch nearly every time because of the limitations of 2D.
“Scanning in 3D, having that extra dimension of depth, might not sound like that big a difference but it’s huge. It can measure depth and do different applications for you without having to devise a new solution for each process.”
Agile Innovation Fund helped LaserTec to break new ground
However, developing 3D technology would mean breaking new ground for LaserTec and would require a considerable amount of R&D.
“We spent a year and a half just researching and looking at the different applications and the types of technology involved before we were able to say it’s possible for us to bring these applications across to our processes,” Basil says.
LaserTec decided that they would need to develop both hardware and software: a 3D sensor that could be incorporated into manufacturing production lines, and an app for mobile devices that could process and relay the information from the sensor.
This would mean a considerable investment, so LaserTec contacted Enterprise Ireland about support for an R&D project around their plans and were advised to apply for the Agile Innovation Fund.
The Agile Innovation Fund offers up to 50% funding to a maximum of €150,000 in grant aid for projects with a total cost of up to €300,000. Designed to make it easier and quicker for smaller companies to access R&D funding, Agile has a fast turnaround time for applications that results in decisions being made in weeks rather than months.
From application to project launch in two months
“We made the application for the Agile Fund in early December of 2017, we got approved by early January and we were up and running in February. The application process made it much easier and quicker to configure what we wanted to get done and get approval in a short time frame.” Basil says.
“We received €90,000 – 45% funding for our project. It allowed us to go and hire resources, additional staff, to develop the product. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without Agile”
Basil Cooney, Managing Director and Founder, LaserTec
Developing the power to scale
John Traynor, R&D Director at LaserTec, says that the goal for LaserTec is for the company to develop a product which, for the first time, can be scaled.
“Technically, we’re very good at LaserTec but our problem was that we were doing a lot of custom solutions that couldn’t be scaled easily. There was a lot of commonality but not enough that you could really scale them.
“Now we’re designing a product for a wider audience, one that can be used for many applications across a number of industries. Instead of developing a product to solve a specific problem for a customer, we will be putting intelligence into their machines and production processes with this technology, so that it can solve multiple problems across multiple industries.”
“You’ll have the 3D sensor and you’ll use the app to tell it what to look for, and it will do just that. But that same sensor and same software algorithm can then be used very differently to scan, measure and provide guidance on a variety of other parts.
The next step for LaserTec is to start testing their new technology, named KnightOwl 3D, with customers.
John adds: “We’ve identified the market, done the research and have been developing the technology. The next stage will be to prove the technology, to engage with customers and get good insight into what their problems are and how we can solve those problems.
“You can sit in an R&D lab until the cows come home but unless you’re out there talking with customers, you’re not really getting real insight into the problems they’re facing.”
After 25 years, the desire to innovate and solve problems still burns brightly at LaserTec.
Learn how the Agile Innovation Fund can support your R&D ambitions.