Blog

My passionate vision of miniaturized spectral sensors for the next industrial revolution

Published 25.1.2018

Semiconductor devices have been at the center of my attention ever since I became aware of them at school in the late 1980’s. This passion has stayed with me since then. After my studies, I had the privilege of working in leading-edge sensor and automation companies like Festo and Burkert. This is where I started to see the future revolution of photonics and spectral sensors. Already then, I realized what new opportunities these tiny optical devices that use light for material sensing can bring to the manufacturing and automation business.

When passion meets practice

I still remember the day when I first met the Spectral Engines’ team in 2013 at Photonics West, the world’s flagship event for the photonics industry. I immediately realized that this is the breakthrough technology of the future material sensing and intelligent control systems which I had been picturing in my mind. After discussing with Spectral Engines’ CEO Jarkko Antila about their promising MEMS technology and the plans of the Spectral Engines’ founding team, I was utterly convinced. It was obvious for me that I wanted to be their first customer. Nothing more, nothing less, as I knew that the process control systems of the future would require material sensing information in order to enable intelligent automation platforms.

I was extremely happy to join Spectral Engines in 2016 to become the evangelist of my vision that I am today. As you all know, a lot has happened since 2013. My role has been promoting the products and applications of material sensing in PAT and Industry 4.0 in the DACH countries. In this work, I have been able to see that my two main passions, semiconductor devices and photonics, are now combined in real industrial applications. Process analytical Technology (PAT) has been defined by USFDA (2009) as “a system for designing, analyzing, and controlling manufacturing through timely measurements of critical quality and performance attributes of raw and in-process materials and processes” – in other words, the perfect environment for the Spectral Engines’ NIRONE sensor products.

Industry 4.0, the melting pot of digitization and automation

Industry 4.0 is the synonym for the fourth industrial revolution. It is the melting pot of digitization and automation, where smart production machines communicate directly to one another creating a highly flexible and automated production environment.

I attended a panel discussion in Germany’s main PAT conference, 13. Kolloquium Prozessanalytik, in Esslingen a few months ago. Together with M.Kimmich (Festo), H.Schulte (Fraunhofer) and E.Veit (Göppingen), we shared the vision that Industry 4.0 will be driven by next generation sensors, artificial intelligence and sensor fusion. The amount of data and intelligence will give remarkable benefits in developing advanced control systems. This communication is not only happening amongst smart production machines, but spans the entire value chain, from product design to production worldwide, eventually leading to smart factories. This value chain can even include the customer.

I am confident that the material sensing revolution has only just started, and will continue advancing like an avalanche once it has penetrated all industries. This will also include applications, which have not yet been touched by spectral sensors due to obstacles in price and miniaturization. The miniaturization of a spectral sensor enables numerous applications, and paired with robustness and easy-to-use emerging cloud based interfaces, it is an ideal playground for our NIRONE product family. The digital transformation desperately needs smart sensors, especially in IoT based applications, services and products in the framework of Industry 4.0.

Together towards an industrial revolution

Whereas Industry 4.0 is an initiative driven by Germany and its fellow European countries, (www.plattform-i40.de), the Industrial Internet Consortium (www.iiconsortium.org) initiative is driven by USA. Both initiatives have recently agreed on cooperating, which demonstrates that the next worldwide industrial revolution is already happening. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany alone will invest 40 billion euros until 2020 in Industry 4.0 applications leading to an additional growth of approximately 153 billion euros.

At Spectral Engines, we are more than ready to meet this growing demand of smart miniaturized material sensors in future factories. My dream from 4 years ago, when I saw the Spectral Engines’ material sensor prototypes for the first time has finally come true, and the evolution towards smarter factories has been started. Today I am proud to be a part of this development and would like to invite you to discuss more about your dreams and goals in this field. Don’t hesitate to contact me, so that we can start building Industry 4.0 compliant sensor products together.

By Dominik Rabus, Country Manager, DACH region, Spectral Engines