Curated Growth Markets:
The High Tech CML Can Improve

Drones

The drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was originally conceived and developed for military applications.  However, improvements in battery technology and computing power has significantly reduced the cost of these devices resulting in their use in a rapidly expanding set of civilian and commercial uses such as:

  • Aerial photography
  • Product Delivery
  • Agriculture
  • Surveillance and mapping
  • Policing
  • Personal/ Leisure Use

The commercial drone market is therefore growing rapidly and has been boosted by a number of aviation authorities formulating regulations to facilitate such use.  The drone is considered to be the first widely available commercial application of an autonomous object and is expected in time to be followed by cars and robots. 

The adoption of drones for commercial use will require a high level of autonomous behaviour. Drones capable of autonomous action are equipped with a range of sensors including accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras and 3D sensors and all of these consume power and add weight to the drone, reducing its flight time and range.  The sensors contained in a drone also need to be immune to the vibrations caused by the rotors, and the shock caused by environmental conditions and take-off and landing.

CMLs range of actuators are ideally suited to this application because they are:

  • inherently lightweight and compact
  • robust and resilient to mechanical agitation
  • able to be precisely controlled even during significant external disturbances

CMLs actuators are already shipping in industry leading drone models.

Virtual Reality

By 2020 the virtual reality market is estimated to reach a value of $150 billion.* It is a key area for CML's work, not least because next-generation VR technology will have several built-in cameras to give the user more visual awareness and an all-together improved experience.

*Digi-Capital Augmented/Virtual Reality Report Q3 2016.

Haptics

Haptics are used to enhance the user experience in a growing range of electronic devices, particularly those that have followed the trend to remove buttons and other features to give a sleek, smooth design.  The human finger is good at detecting movement, but is not so good at discriminating direction of movement, hence by vibrating or moving the surface in any direction it can give the impression that a physical button has been depressed. 

We expect the market for haptic devices to grow significantly for two reasons.  Firstly, the recent shift to smooth featureless designs in high volume electronic devices, motivated in part by the need to improve water resistance, or to improve reliability, will drive demand; and secondly, we expect the range of devices that make use of haptic elements to expand from smartphones, PC tracking pads and game controllers into a wider range of product categories such as wearables and medical devices.

Haptics devices need to produce a lot of force to move a surface when it is subjected to the pressure applied by a finger. Ideally haptic effects are only felt at the point where the user is expecting to find a button, which is compromised if the whole device is vibrated.  We have used our expertise to produce an actuator capable of producing a high force in the compact footprint of a typical smartphone button to give a satisfying localized tactile sensation.  In addition, our ability to control the movement of SMA wires allows the feel of the button to be varied according to user preferences.

Medical Devices

One of the major advances in medical science in recent years is the improvement of diagnosis and surgical procedures enabled by different forms of endoscopes. Similar devices are also used to perform laparascopic or “keyhole” surgery, which has the benefit of reducing pain and inflammation, significantly reducing recovery times.

Endoscopes in their various forms consist of a tube for insertion into the body, along with a light source and camera. Larger and more sophisticated endoscopes incorporate channels for the use of a variety of tools. Endoscopy is a procedure that requires considerable skill and consequently can be aided by introducing greater levels of automation

Technologies are being developed to:

  • improve the quality of images from the camera,
  • hold or stabilise the area of the body that is being examined
  • confine and remove bio-material
  • improve the manipulation of tools
  • provide haptic feedback that replicates the tactile sensation of using a surgical tool.

SMA actuators are ideally suited to medial applications because they are bio-compatible, small and lightweight.

We are currently engaged in a number collaborative projects with medical research groups around the world.

Robotics

Robots are set to be common in assembly facilities, factories, healthcare, and the home, as they continue to become more sophisticated. A key theme for next-generation robotics is the ability to perform precise procedures, mimicking or even outdoing what humans can do.

A robot designed with SMA wire, can contract and expand in the same way human muscle does. Our optimised version, then, guarantees:

  • miniaturised, lightweight form
  • patented control technology for the best precision and stability
  • consistent performance over time
  • silent operation

Self Driving Cars

Self-driving cars use a series of cameras and sensors to work out what is happening around them. The more advanced the technology, the more internal and external cameras and sensors are needed to monitor the user’s immediate environment. Our actuator technology is very well suited to added functionality and improving the quality of the data collected. The more accurate the data, the less likely the risk of a accident.