Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

PARTEQ-managed laser innovation earns Ontario Centres of Excellence Martin Walmsley award

Article Date: October 24, 2012

KINGSTON, ON -- A Queen’s University physics student’s solution to a decades-old industrial problem has earned the 2012 Martin Walmsley Fellowship for Technological Entrepreneurship from the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

Lasers are widely used in industry to drill, cut and weld materials because they are fast, accurate and never become dull. While lasers are easy to aim, it is difficult to control how deeply they penetrate materials.

Inline Coherent Imaging (ICI) is an optical tool that allows direct measurement and control of depth in laser welding and drilling. Developed by PhD candidate Paul Webster with Professor James Fraser, the technology offers the capability to improve quality and safety and reduce manufacturing costs in products as diverse as solar panels, batteries, cars and jet engines, and eventually in health care applications such as medical implants and even surgery on human tissue.

“Tools are only as good as we can understand and control them,” says Mr. Webster. “The demand from industry for improved competitive manufacturing capabilities is insatiable -- even advanced technologies like lasers are hitting their limits. Our products add the final dimension of control that will unleash the full potential of laser tools.”

The technology forms the basis to a new PARTEQ startup company, Laser Depth Dynamics.

“This is our fourth startup company that has been founded on Queen’s Physics research and it is the second one founded around students that have won the Martin Walmsley award,” says John Molloy, President and CEO of PARTEQ. “This new company has a unique, elegant solution to a very real problem and the path to market is clear. Universities can have tremendous economic and societal impact when they harness the power of students and match it with the know-how and support of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. ”

The technology, which has already attracted the interest of industry, has been recognized with more than $800,000 in development funding from Queen’s University’s PARTEQ Innovations, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

PARTEQ and Mr. Webster have co-founded a startup company, Laser Depth Dynamics, to commercialize the technology. The Walmsley award provides the company with $100,000 in seed funding over the next two years, allowing the company to bring the commercial product to market and engage customers. Mr. Webster will be mentored and assisted by PARTEQ’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Roger Bowes.

“There’s been an amazing level of interest in this technology from customers, which tells us that it addresses an urgent industrial need,” says Mr. Bowes. “It has the potential to transform the use of lasers across a variety of manufacturing sectors, and to influence the entire manufacturing process, from the design stage through to quality control of finished products.”

This is the second Walmsley award for a Queen’s-generated technology. Dr. David Barrow’s doctoral research earned the inaugural Walmsley award in 1995. His discovery, with co-inventors Ted Petroff and Michael Sayer, of a novel, non-toxic, hard-wearing ceramic coating formed the basis of Datec Coating Corp., a thriving Ontario-based advanced materials company.

Roger Bowes
Entrepreneur in Residence
PARTEQ Innovations
P: 613. 533. 6000 x 78457

About PARTEQ Innovations
PARTEQ Innovations is the not-for-profit technology transfer office founded by Queen’s University, and is a partner in the Rideau Commercialization Network. PARTEQ works with institutional researchers and the business and venture capital communities to bring early stage technologies to market. Since 1987 PARTEQ has been instrumental in the establishment of more than 45 companies developing a variety of products, from potential drugs for Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease to automated bacteria detection for water systems, solar-powered appliances, and advanced materials used in the plastics, automotive, aerospace and household appliance industries.