Advantech US Builds Success Selling to Global Markets

Whit Little leads up Advantech as its CEO.

Whit Little leads up Advantech US as its CEO.

Advantech US, Inc. has become a recognized leader in technology for the manufacture of microelectronic devices—and its success is hinged on accessing worldwide markets.

Advantech US pioneered and introduced a printed electronics technology for the microelectronic industry to additively manufacture electronic sensors, devices, and circuits with fine features down to 5 µm in size (one micrometer or µm is one-thousandth of a millimeter, a standard sheet of paper is about 25 µm thick). Like building blocks, this additive process deposits bulk materials, like metals, layer-by-layer to build components such as capacitors, resistors, and transistors.

Features and devices below 5 µm are typically the realm of Chips/VLSI. Features above 30 µm are the realm of traditional printed circuit and device technologies. The manufacturing processes of these two worlds have rarely intersected. Advantech US has developed an electronics printing process that now allows these worlds to merge.

This process has shown significant application potential for the fabrication of backplanes for ePaper and OLED displays, chip packaging, microelectronic devices and electronic circuitry, according to Whit Little, Advantech US CEO. He said accessing global markets has been crucial to Advantech US’s success to date.

“We’ve developed innovative technologies resulting in over 30 patents worldwide,” said Little. “And, we are finding new product applications for this technology all of the time, ranging from military to medical.”

This technology is generating commercial interest around the world, and Advantech US uses the TechExport Program as a key resource to make its international business efforts more informed, efficient and cost-effective.

The TechExport Program is a joint effort of Pennsylvania’s Center for Trade Development (CTD), the Pittsburgh Technology Council and the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, with the primary objective of raising awareness of international business opportunities among technology business and assisting them in launching or increasing their export sales.

For example, Advantech US used the TechExport Program to obtain grants to offset the cost of attending international tradeshows, as well as using the program’s overseas reps to assist in setting up meetings with potential customers in Asian and European markets.

Also, Advantech US established new business interests with the likes of LG and Samsung as a result of working with TechExport. “I would not want to do this without the TechExport Program,” said Little. “Resources from experts like TechExport are crucial to our success. R and D companies like us, entering commercialization, have focused resources on product development. TechExport brings a new and necessary set of skills and resources to our table.”

Based in Pittsburgh with nearly 20 employees, the company’s history goes back more than 40 years through its founder Dr. Peter Brody, who developed the Active Matrix backplane in 1970. Advantech US was formally launched in 2004 to take this technology and develop displays for HP/Compaq PDAs. Little took on the role of CEO in 2009, with a sharp focus on growing the Advantech US marketplace worldwide.

Read the entire issue of TEQ online.

The Technology Collaborative Supports Startups with $1.2M in Grants

 The Technology Collaborative (TTC), a statewide economic development organization that supports the growth of Pennsylvania’s world-class robotics and digital technologies industries, today announced its most recent round of funding. In total, they awarded $1.2M in grants to nine companies and two universities across Pennsylvania.

“The latest round of funded technology development proposals includes projects that leverage highly innovative digital and robotic technologies in a variety of applications including energy management, speech recognition, and autism treatment,” commented David Ruppersberger, president and CEO of The Technology Collaborative.  “We are very pleased to be able to award funding from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, as well as local foundations, to projects with high levels of commercial potential and technical innovation.  These projects will enhance job creation and company formation in the region and across the state.”

Each of the 11 projects is now underway and all are expected to be completed by spring of 2012. For more details on the awarded projects, keep on reading!

SpiralGen, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA

Automated Code Generator for Custom High-Performance Signal Processing Software Components

SpiralGen was founded in 2009 as a spin off from Carnegie Mellon University. The company has an exclusive license to automated code generation technology developed over the past 12 years at CMU. A first-time recipient of grant money from TTC, SpiralGen is focused on providing highly-optimized prepackaged and custom algorithmic software components for specific target compute architectures. The SpiralGen approach enables faster time-to-market, higher performance, higher reliability, and higher maintainability compared to functionally equivalent human-created code. Signal and image processing software used in personal computers as well as embedded in fixed function devices has virtually unlimited need for computational speed. To reduce the labor intensity and maintenance obstacles of traditional code optimization methods, the key innovation of the proposed system is the ability to automatically create optimized code that rivals the best human-optimized code for a given platform. This is enabled by an underlying automated program generation engine technology, called Spiral. The goal of the proposed project is to build on the prior CMU work on Spiral to bridge the gap between research and commercialization, making the technology accessible to a broader market. The resulting tools will reduce time-to-market, support multiple platforms, and improve maintainability, all with the same or better performance than human-optimized code.

BluPanda, Pittsburgh, PA

Towards A Zero-Wait Hospital

BluPanda, LLC, a Pittsburgh-based company started by Disruptive Robotics, LLC, focuses on eliminating wait time and crowding in the nation’s emergency departments. They are developing logistics management software that uses “robotic intelligence” to (i) accurately predict future resource needs of emergency room patients, (ii) automatically create a logistics plan to ensure that resources are ready for all current Emergency Room patients, and (iii) directly manage dozens of clinical staff members distributed throughout the hospital to ensure that they optimally deliver direct patient care as a team. BluPanda proposes to build, deploy, and commercialize an Admissions Predictor in partnership with multiple hospitals in the Pittsburgh area. The Admissions Predictor is a classifier that takes basic triage information as its input and predicts whether patients will need to be admitted to the hospital. It forms its initial prediction at triage, hours ahead of the official admission decision. Usage of demand prediction has enormous potential to unclog the ED by enabling the interior of the hospital to prepare inpatient beds in parallel with clinical work-ups, rather than waiting until after the final admit decision has been made.

Voci Technologies Incorporated, Pittsburgh, PA

“Hardware Accelerated Proper Name Recognition”

Voci™ Technologies is a Pittsburgh-based startup delivering high performance speech-to-text appliances for enterprise analytics and security applications. Voci is located steps away from the Carnegie Mellon campus, remaining close to its technical roots. Voci pioneered the implementation of speech recognition in hardware to achieve the highest performance speech-to-text solution available today. Speech recognition tools translate human speech into searchable text. Most state-of-the-art recognizers exist as complex software running on conventional computers. This is profoundly limiting for applications that require extreme_ _recognition speed and/or accuracy. Voci(tm) delivers the world’s first hardware-accelerated speech recognition solution. The Hardware Accelerated Proper Name Recognition project seeks to extend the capabilities of the Voci product line into an important adjacent market: recognition of proper names and number sequences. The proposed solution will leverage a novel, patent pending, simultaneous word/phonetic/syllabic recognizer and a unique method of combining this data using confidence scores to achieve unprecedented levels of speed, and accuracy. The proposed solution will implement the ability to use incorrectly recognized names to incrementally and automatically improve accuracy.

Data Makes the Difference, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Autism Treatment Software

The mission of Data Makes the Difference, LLC, a newly formed Pennsylvania company, is to create, develop and market software applications and a secure web interface that allow parents, care-givers and those professionals who treat individuals with autism to automatically chart the data that they collect on an individual’s behavior and skills. The current practice is to use stopwatches, clipboards, clickers and pen and paper while collecting data and later enter the data into a spreadsheet. The result is a slow or nonexistent data collection, analysis and dissemination process that in turn leads to poor outcomes for the individual and consequently society as a whole. The company is developing and perfecting original software applications and an innovative web based application for use in the field of education to improve the behavioral and skill acquisition data collection. Additionally, these groundbreaking tools are designed to facilitate the analysis of the data resulting in better treatment for individuals with autism. This project will create a single, consolidated, secure autism treatment tool set that will make the work of special educators easier, more efficient and result in better outcomes.

Steel City Optronics, Sarver, PA

Real Time Georeferencing System for Airborne Mapping

Steel City Optronics LLC (SCO) was established to transition high-tech electro-optical (EO) devices from the academic environment to low-volume manufacturing and commercialization. SCOutilizes a novel, low-cost, low-risk approach to technology transition from the University environment to military and commercial markets. Aerial photographs were the exclusive domain of government agencies until Google Earth democratized access. The availability of these orthophotos has added a burgeoning commercial market to the existing government and law-enforcement market. However, before aerial photographs can be used, they must be adjusted by complex mathematical transformations to generate accurate latitude, longitude, and altitude information (georeferenced) and to contour the photograph to the varying terrain of the earth (orthorectified). The TTC funded project will result in the computing hardware to allow commercialization of a high-resolution, accurate, low cost, compact airborne mapping system that generates satellite quality imagery while being 1/10 the size and price of commercial systems. In addition, the product will deliver full image products immediately, without the long waits associated with other systems.

The University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Simple Feedback Device

Through the department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh, the Principal Investigator on this project will develop a Simple Feedback Device (SFD) for use by individuals with severe disabilities. The proposed SFD will improve the clinical practice of occupational, physical and speech/language therapy for individuals with multiple, severe disabilities and will provide a simple, durable and portable system that allows caregivers to provide feedback targeted to specific postures or movements made by clients for educational and therapeutic purposes. The SFD will be sufficiently flexible to support a range of clinical goals, but also simple enough that family members and caregivers in residential facilities can reliably use the device in classrooms, homes and residential facilities. Providing consistent feedback across settings and caregivers, and allowing therapy to extend beyond explicit clinical sessions, the SFD will also collect data that can be used to evaluate performance and compliance of clients with severe disabilities. Most importantly, the SFD will allow clinicians to create therapeutic activities that are more interactive and engaging, motivating clients to achieve their therapeutic goals in ways that traditional therapy approaches do not.

Allpoint Systems, LLC, Pittsburgh, PA

A 3D Mapping Engine for GPS-Denied Mobile Platforms

Allpoint is a Pittsburgh-based 3D data processing and software development company with a history in mobile robotics and simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), and that targets the cost and complexity found in laser scanning and 3D modeling workflows. The project team will create a mapping package for small mobile platforms to enable and enhance autonomous mobile robot capabilities and provide connected users (humans and other robots) with the map for recon and mission planning. The project goal is to create simultaneous localization and mapping software that will build 3D models of GPS-denied settings from a small mobile platform. These models will be used for (1) mobile robot navigation and (2) situational context to users in communication with the mobile platform. This technology will be part of navigation and mapping products for GPS-denied mobile mapping.

Carnegie Robotics LLC, Pittsburgh, PA

MultiSense™ Perception Pod; Embedded Electronics Upgrade to Achieve Product Viability

Carnegie Robotics is a new Pittsburgh-based company that builds highly reliable robotics products to improve productivity, reliability and safety, primarily in the agriculture, mining, defense and oil and gas production markets. Carnegie Robotics maintains a strategic relationship with Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). As a for-profit company, CRL can take on the reliability, affordability and manufacturability dimensions of robotic systems that are outside the mission of university research. In this two-tiered relationship, NREC develops basic technology to prototype and CRL then licenses, productizes, delivers and supports the products in the field. The TTC funded project will strive to dramatically upgrade the computing and electronics of Carnegie Robotics’ MultiSense™ device—enabling a cost-effective product that fuses data from multiple sensors into a common, “colorized range data” stream. MultiSense™ reduces overall system complexity as well as integration cost for a variety of end users seeking to add state-of-art perception capabilities to their applications.

Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA

AMOLED Display Drivers

Lehigh University has developed a new integrated circuit driver technology for conventional AMOLED displays. Lehigh’s patented pending technology corrects for all sources of non-uniformity. Their approach is based on correcting the display non-uniformity problems by the display’s peripheral IC drivers and thus is a lower cost solution than other approaches that add complexity within the display pixels. In the proposed project, Lehigh University will design and fabricate in a foundry an integrated circuit (IC) that will be used to validate the new technology. Lehigh’s new driver technology will enable low cost, high performance AMOLED displays and thus is expected to be widely adopted by manufacturers of AMOLED displays.

Advantech US, Inc. Pittsburgh, PA

Development of an Electronic Shelf Label Using E-Paper

Founded in 2004, Advantech is a Pittsburgh‐based startup, an R&D company specializing in a particular type of evaporative printing technology that produces thin film devices for the emerging display market for OLED, ePaper, and printed circuit board industries. This is a green disruptive technology that can replace traditional photolithography manufacturing to significantly reduce the cost, waste, and complexity of active matrix display backplanes and chip carriers used in PCBs. Advantech has designed and built the world’s first complete inline manufacturing system using this technology called a miniLine™ that will begin producing thin film devices in the second half of 2011. Advantech plans to sell backplanes for thin film devices produced on the miniLine™, complete miniLine™ tools, and license IP. Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are miniature displays made from the Advantech active matrix backplane and an ePaper frontplane that are used in retail environments in place of paper labels. ePaper is a green technology – ESLs can be produced that consume virtually no power;. Since the benefits of ESL are vast, the ESL market is highly attractive. As a result, most of the components and even early ePaper‐based ESLs have been developed. However, the relatively high overall system cost is a barrier to a rapid adoption. This cost is primarily driven by the cost of backplane electronics. Advantech will break the cost barrier and enable wide adoption of ESL. Their new and proprietary (18 issued patents, 33 pending, 10 in preparation) evaporation printing manufacturing process produces backplanes at the fraction of the cost compared to more conventional photolithography process.

Embedded Energy Technology, LLC, Pittsburgh, PA

Embedded Thermal Monitoring and Management Systems

Embedded Energy Technology’s mission is to provide a family of high value products and services that will accelerate the national effort to reduce the carbon footprint, increase the efficiency of energy generation and distribution facilities, reduce downtime due to maintenance, and increase workplace safety. The initial steps toward the fulfillment of this mission were taken in the fall of 2009 with the development, prototyping, and patenting (pending) of a cost effective, portable technology platform to instrument, measure, and communicate information regarding the operating state and condition of a wide range of industrial process equipment. The current project will produce an innovative, cost effective, and demanded thermal management product for the U.S. removable insulation market. The product enables owner/operators to monitor in real-time the operational state of emplaced steam distribution networks. The product will obtain the desired energy savings and performance data in situ, archive the data, and periodically communicate the data to a device such as a remote web portal, computer archive, or hand held monitoring apparatus.