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VTT creates new business from optical handheld devices

The business trend for new optical devices has been towards small-size, hand-held, easy-to-use, wireless, high-performance and low-cost instruments. This has provided the motivation for VTT to explore and create new concepts for the design and construction of hand-held and portable analyzers.

VTT investigated new handheld technologies in its three-year 2.9 M€ joint-funded HANSKA project (2009-2011). Several demonstration handheld devices were realized and novel technology platforms were generated in the project. One of the key achievements of HANSKA was the establishment of an industrial network capable of offering design and manufacturing services for portable instrumentation in the future.

The project featured the participation of an exceptionally strong industrial consortium, including: Metso Automation Oy, Exens Development Oy, SICK AG, Optomed Oy, Reagena Oy, Millog Oy, Biolin Scientific Oy, Presteel Oy, Abcell Oy, Gasera OY and Oxford Instruments Analytical Oy. Based on customer feedback, the turnover of the pilot handheld optical device business is estimated at 40-60 M€ in next five years. According to the project partners, the project’s results will be utilised in new products within the next 2–3 years and will bring 10–15 new products to the market. The first commercialized product was released this spring (Biolin Scientific, Theta QC), and further new product announcements will be made later this year.

The following demo products were realized by the HANSKA project:

  • Novel handheld bioreader platform (Reagena)

  • Portable contact angle measurement device (Biolin Scientific)

  • Small-sized camera module (Oxford Instruments)

  • Night vision system (Millog)

  • Miniaturized laser scanner device for the automotive industry (SICK AG)

  • Compact NIR spectrometer device for the paper industry (Metso Automation)

  • New portable dimension measurement system for steel products (Presteel).

The HANSKA project supports VTT’s vision to develop new design and manufacturing concepts which can be utilized in handheld devices where the main measurement principles are based on machine vision and optical spectroscopy. Handheld device development requires a multitude of competences, such as optics, electronics, high-precision mechanics, software and embedded software development, system engineering, optoelectronic components, packaging, digital signal processing, wireless communication, low-cost manufacturing techniques, calibration, and various aspects of applied physics and chemistry. VTT studied a number of special techniques in HANSKA, such as 3-D printing, aspheric lenses, plastic optics, miniature camera modules, tunable Fabry-Perot filters, and adjustable liquid lens technologies. Those can be seen as key enabling technologies when laboratory measurement technology is transferred to small-sized, compact and robust handheld analysers.

Some of the leading demo products developed in the HANSKA project: