Giving Technology a Sense of Touch
Wintersemester 2019 - PikoSens
In times of Industry 4.0 and the use of robots in almost every industry, the role of technology and sensors is becoming more and more crucial. Built-in sensors must be able to achieve maximum performance and measure pressure and force from all directions, to ensure the effective and safe use of robotics. With PikoSens such a force sensor is brought to the market.
Status Quo & Technology
A team of scientists at the Technical University of Vienna developed a prototype of a cutting-edge (micro-electro-mechanical-systems) multi-axis-force sensor and had it patented in all strategically relevant countries over the globe. Even though the technology can be used for many application fields, the team was not sure which is the most attractive industry to approach. The main inventor and sciencepreneur - Dipl. Ing. Alexander Dabsch - addressed our team of five international business students to help him tackle this and other strategic issues. The central tasks were to find appealing application fields, in which the technology could solve critical tasks, to design a profound business model and to establish contacts to key potential partners.
Initially, it was critical to fully understand the highly complex technological characteristics of the sensor. The distinguishing features include simultaneous measurement of forces coming from 5 different directions, a very small size, and high durability of the sensor. With this information 54 experts from a wide range of industries like Automotive, Medicine, Aviation and Gaming were interviewed to discover valuable benefits the sensor could deliver in those fields. Additionally, a multitude of potential customers and stakeholders were contacted to get a feeling of business opportunities in different industries. In order to gather as much relevant information as possible, common interviewing techniques such as pyramiding and broadcasting were used.
Success in Robotics
The expert interviews showed a need for such a technology in the prosthetics industry. However, it was discovered that the force sensor solves an even more critical issue within the general robotics industry. Due to the aforementioned characteristics of the sensor, it can be applied in nearly all (industrial-) robots and mitigates the negative impact of the surrounding environment on measurement results. Additionally, the robotics industry is less regulated by governments than the prosthetics industry and the total addressable market is bigger and more lucrative. To be more precise, the industrial robotics industry is a promising field, which is expected to grow by a CAGR of 25% to a total of $ 96.7 bn in 2024. Due to the growth in the robotics industry, there is also a rising demand for high-quality force sensors. In order to enter the market in a profitable and timely fashion, it was decided to start-up the company by entering into a strategic alliance with one of the major chips producing companies in the industry. The goal is to sign a licensing agreement with them and then provide the partner and end-customer with additional services, such as technology consulting and product redesigning. Furthermore, parts of the profit would be reinvested into the company to bootstrap new technology and ideas. What is especially promising is that the business will be profitable within the first year because the initial R&D costs were funded without the necessity to pay the investment back. Additionally, PikoSense does not face high costs, due to the nature of the licensing contract. Our team has already established contacts to the most important chip producers in Europe, such as Infineon and AMS and potential R&D partners such as Microsoft USA and AVL. Lastly, we were able to get IST Cube, as a potential investor, on board.
Dipl. Ing. Alexander Dabsch