One of the newest tech companies to come out of the University of New Brunswick is making waves in the start-up world, according to Dhirendra Shukla, director of the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship.

Eigen Innovations has partnered with FLIR Canada to focus on thermal imaging innovations.  The company is part of the Planet Hatch accelerator program and recently graduated from Propel ICT’s Launch36 program.

The UNB-born company emerged from research conducted by Rickey Dubay, professor of mechanical engineering and Eigen’s chief scientific officer, and his PhD student Scott Everett, chief technology officer.

Read Stephen Llewellyn’s story on Eigen and interview with CEO Richard Jones in the November 28 edition of The Daily Gleaner.

Startup focusing on thermal imaging innovations

The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
Thu Nov 28 2013
Byline: Stephen Llewellyn

A Fredericton high-tech startup and a major Canadian company are teaming up to get better results from thermal sensors for manufacturers.

On Wednesday, Eigen Innovations and FLIR Canada put on a demonstration for process control engineers from numerous different Atlantic Canada industries at Planet Hatch, the new startup incubator in the Fredericton Knowledge Park.

Richard Jones, CEO of Eigen Innovations, said Eigen is a start-up company that is commercializing research done over the last five years at the University of New Brunswick.

“We are very happy to be working with FLIR where we take data from their thermal imaging cameras, we put it into our software and through the analysis we do, we use that data to then make more intelligent decisions inside manufacturing operations,” he said, in an interview.

“We take their data and use it to make smarter decisions for the people that are operating factories.”

Jones said Eigen can take continuous streams of images from FLIR thermal cameras and analyze it in real time, avoiding any shutdowns for production lines. It can even adjust machinery in real time, he said.

“Based on changing data in real time, we would send different signals to different devices on the manufacturing line to say turn this up or slow this down, whatever we need to do to keep the process optimized,” he said.

The company’s software can even predict equipment failures.

Eigen is currently in the Planet Hatch accelerator program. Jones said it also passed through the Launch 36 program run by ICT.

He said Eigen is graduating from the accelerator program in December but has the option to stay in Planet Hatch a bit longer.

“Ultimately our business plan is we’re going to hire more people, so just from the sheer size perspective, we’re going to be moving to another location,” he said.

“But we really like the location here. It’s a great foundation for innovating and interacting with people.”

Eigen currently has three full-time employees plus another person the company works with who is not on the payroll, said Jones.

“If we execute our business plan, we’ll be up to 10 people by this time next year,” he said.

“We’re very focused on Fredericton as our head office.”

Greg Bork, director of FLIR Canada’s thermography group, said the demonstration was to show automated thermal solutions and how to save money for companies.

“We’re looking at using infrared technology to combine it into a process to reduce costs, (improve) energy savings, improve quality control and really reduce the pain points on production in Atlantic Canada,” he said.

He said Eigen uses artificial intelligence to look forward to keep improving the process in areas like mechanical, petrochemical, offshore oil and gas.

“There’s no financing involved,” said Bork, about his company’s relationship with Eigen. “FLIR has partnered with Eigen as an Atlantic Canadian innovation and automation specialist.

“These folks are taking our hardware technology and then building complete system around it.”

Bork said the combination allows manufacturing companies to gather important data about how their machinery is working without shutting that machinery down for testing.

“Is it too hot? Is it too cold? Will it affect the process? Will it affect the quality control? When the process is running, that is when you are going to find your problems.”

Bork said the potential savings for companies could run into the millions of dollars, especially if a problem is caught early and prevents a tank or pipeline leak and any resulting environmental fine.

He said about 90 per cent of the companies that attended Thursday’s demonstration already have thermal cameras in their production facility.

Bork said the response from the audience was very positive.

Claude Bertin, an electrical engineer from the AV Cell pulp mill in Atholville, attended the presentation and was impressed.

“The technology is right there because it is addressing a lot of stuff that we can apply to our mill,” he said.

“A lot of the time with the quality of the sheet we need to know the process side which they’re talking a lot about here.

“On the process side, there is a lot of stuff you can monitor with fixed cameras.”

Some parts of the mill process can’t be entered to be inspected by workers, he said. But a camera could be installed to do the inspection, he said.

“It’s great. We’re already talking to the guy,” said Bertin.

“He’s going to come up to our mill.

“It can also predict the failure. I don’t know how accurate that is, but to me I believe that is possible.”

That is valuable for any operation, he said.