Switzerland is an expensive place to locate a business. The strong Swiss franc makes nearly everything expensive. On the face of it this seems like a handicap, however in the end it is arguably an advantage. High costs force businesses to innovate to create products that command a price premium or to find hi tech advances in productivity. Scientific Visual is an example of a Swiss productivity enhancing innovation that proves the point.
Watch faces, smart phone screens and LEDS are all made from sapphire, an expensive, harder-than-glass crystal known for its strength and clarity. But sapphire is often flawed. Until now imperfections in the crystal could only be identified after cutting and polishing, an expensive process that accounts for up to 50% of the cost of the finished product. Having to throw away defective polished sapphire is costly, accounting for half a day per week lost production and was, until now, unavoidable.
It’s welcome news for Swiss watch makers, that Scientific Visual, an award-winning EPFL start-up has developed the first ever system to identify flaws reliably in unpolished sapphire.
CEO and founder, Ivan Orlov told Le News “breaking into the Swiss market is a priority for the company. By quickly and cheaply identifying flaws in sapphire, our technology allows watch manufacturers to slash productions costs, radically improving the yield of watch faces during production and vitally in post-production, ensuring only the best quality reaches the customer.” The automated quality control system improves yields by around 15 percent and virtually eliminates the need for costly manual quality control. “One machine can replace three controllers delivering better results and large savings. Our machines have been extensively tested and unambiguously confirm the cost-benefits,” stated Orlov.
The recent de-linking of the Franc from the Euro which resulted in a 15% increase in the currency’s relative value is causing concern among Swiss watch manufacturers. Companies have to be more efficient if they are to remain competitive. Scientific Visual’s technology goes a long way to helping Swiss manufacturers address this pressing issue.
The technology also addresses one of the most pressing issues facing watch and smart phone makers – counterfeiting. The Federation of Swiss Manufacturers estimates that over 40 million fakes are made each year against 28 million genuine watches. By identifying and recording the optical fingerprint integral to each piece of sapphire, watch and smart phone producers together with law enforcement agencies can quickly, reliably and cheaply identify counterfeits.
Scientific Visual announced this week that it has successfully finished its first financing round. The news comes hot on the heels of the company winning its first major sale and nominated for a CHF 10,000 innovation prize from CTI. The company is strengthening its management team and is recruiting finance, sales and marketing directors in anticipation of launching a second round of funding to support the company’s next phase of development with an entry into the highly lucrative LED market in Asia and the USA.