Using the shape memory effect, the KIT-Spin-off memetis enables high operating forces with better integrability and higher flexibility for miniature actuators.
memetis enable large forces to develop and motions to proceed within a minimum of space. They have achieved this thanks to the development of foil-based miniature actuators made of shape memory alloys (SMAs). Shape memory alloys are metal alloys that can easily be deformed when they are in a cold state and return to their memory shape by themselves when they are heated up, in the course of which distances are covered and forces develop. Based on this, a multitude of components and systems in various industries can be further strongly miniaturised, which opens up entirely new options for application. From automotive and consumer electronics through aerospace technologies to medical engineering and analytics – the memetis SMA miniature actuators can be used just about everywhere, and with tailor-made benefits.
The company founders came up with this brilliant idea in the course of doctoral studies at the Institute of Microtechnolgy, which belongs to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). During this period, they had already gathered considerable experience with SMA miniature actuators, which boosted their determination to advance this technology in actuator design to market maturity and make it accessible for to a wide range of users. It is the declared goal of memetis to exploit the full potential of SMA actuator technology and make it marketable.
memetis GmbH was officially founded in February 2017. The four young entrepreneurs will be supported by the programme EXIST Research Transfer Phase I up to September 2018. The further advancement of the technology and its adaptation to client requirements has been entrusted to Dr Marcel Gültig, Dr Hinnerk Oßmer and Dr Christof Megnin. Christoph Wessendorf joined the start-up team in spring 2015 to see to the commercial aspects of going into business.
The next important step in the development process of the fledgling enterprise is series production, with which memetis will be able to efficiently scale their business and grow correspondingly. “The challenge is to manually assemble a single component and then scale up manufacturing to 100, 1,000 and 10,000 pieces,” Wessendorf explains. “Thus already when we are developing the components, we have to orient them on producibility, clearly define processes and introduce and test technical implementation, which is followed by continuous quality management and certification. When we have finished all this, we can achieve our planned turnover and fully launch a growth phase as well as maintaining a far more active presence in the market.”
They were thankful for support provided by the KIT incubator right from the start, both in terms of funding and financing advice and pitch training. “We were able to draw on an excellent network of mentors whom we got to know in the Accelerator Programmes,” Wessendorf comments. For example, memetis took part in upCAT, a KIT funding programme that supports start-ups in their early stages. Their mentor was Tobias Grab, who is currently in the process of establishing his second start-up, in addition to the KIT spin-off Cynora.
With their move from Campus Nord to Karlsruhe’s western district in March 2018, memetis have taken a further step towards the business world – even though they will always maintain a link with KIT, also because of KIT having completed its participation in starting up memetis as a spin-off.
The spin-off Renumics GmbH uses machine learning methods to make Computer Aided Engineering more efficient and take the strain off computational engineers.
Crash tests are an expensive affair. In early development stages, collision experiments are therefore often replaced by computer simulations that can be performed thousands of times taking various influential factors into account. These simulations are usually based on computer-supported processes, on so-called Computer Aided Engineering (CAE). This concept centres on computational engineers who compile numerical models, thus assisting constructors in the analysis and optimisation of their designs. The crucial time and cost factors here are the many manual work steps involved. For example, computational engineers invest a considerable amount of time in routine activities such as pre-processing geometries and integrating data instead of being able to concentrate on modelling and analytical work, which is precisely where Renumics comes in. This KIT spin-off has developed a software with which CAE can be automated. In this context, machine learning methods help make simulations workflows considerably more efficient.
The KIT spinoff robodev GmbH has developed an intelligent module construction kit for a profitable production of small quantities in manufacturing enterprises.
Robot-supported automation is experiencing a boom. Nowadays, the automobile branch in particular would be quite inconceivable without modern industrial robots. From punching sheet metal components to the complete car body, whole automation lines are in operation partly without any human action. It is no coincidence that the automobile industry has become the paragon in this area. As a rule, unlike in many other branches, extremely large quantities are involved that all have to be produced according to exactly the same pattern. “The cost of a simple automation solution is at least 80,000 euro. If smaller quantities, below 10,000 items per month, are involved, this investment will usually not pay its way. Slightly below 75 per cent of processes in the German manufacturing industry are therefore manual or have only been automated to a small degree,” explains Dr Andreas Bihlmaier, co-founder of robodev GmbH.
Enough experimenting! The KIT spinoff GoSilico enables the biopharmaceuticals branch to introduce the computer-supported development of manufacturing processes for new agents.
The way from the discovery of a promising agent to its authorisation is tedious. It involves countless experiments that not only cause high costs but also require a considerable amount of perseverance. “It can take up to ten years for a drug to enter the market,” says Dr Thiemo Huuk. This is a shortcoming that he tends to address together with his co-founders Prof Dr Jürgen Hubbuch, Dr Teresa Beck and Dr Tobias Hahn.