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SPIE Professional April 2013

SPIE Startup Challenge

Developers of 3D surface-inspection system for aircraft rivets win the SPIE Startup Challenge.

The founders of a one-year-old company that is developing a rapid 3D surface-inspection system for aircraft rivets took home the $10,000 first-place prize at the SPIE Startup Challenge in February.

Arun Chhabra, a former digital light processing (DLP) manager at Texas Instruments and now CEO of 8tree, and SPIE member Erik Klaas, 8tree CTO, won the top prize for their fastCHECK system, which can rapidly and accurately inspect the external rivets on an airplane to ensure they are perfectly flush with the plane.

The 8tree system can speed the manufacturing, quality assurance, and maintenance of aircraft with real-time scanning and analysis by addressing a chronic problem in the airline industry of fasteners that don’t meet specifications.

The founders impressed a panel of judges with their plan to replace the established 2D inspection techniques with 8tree’s patent-pending 3D measuring modality. Chhabra’s winning pitch described the portable fastCHECK system as a combination of a high-performance 3D optical scanner with augmented-reality techniques.

Now in its third year, the SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West expanded the prizes this year through sponsorship from Jenoptik and additional support from TRUMPF, Open Photonics, Knobbe Martens, and University of California, Davis, where the three top winners and an additional seven finalists will receive sponsorship to attend the Entrepreneurship Academies. The UC Davis academies offer help to beginning entrepreneurs who can refine their business case, analyze the market more fully, and develop a network of connections to help drive their new business.

2nd, 3rd place for biophotonics startups

The $5,000 prize for second place went to SPIE member Ryan Denomme, founder of Nicoya Lifesciences, which has created the Nicoya HeartDoc, a device for the home that can measure brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), a biomarker indicator of heart failure. The device uses a disposable cartridge to measure BNP levels and transmits the information via smart- phone to a physician for review.

Denomme notes that the BNP analysis device is designed to capitalize on a $2 billion global market opportunity. He says people with chronic heart failure have a 50% rate of being hospitalized for recurrence within six months of diagnosis, so an in-home diagnostic device could reduce that rate.

Frank Palmer, CEO of ColdSteel Laser, won the $2,500 third prize for his “Remote image-guided endoscopic surgery (RIGES) platform.” The RIGES device uses transmissive optics to steer a surgical CO2 laser within the tight confines of a patient’s body. Palmer hopes his technology will result in faster surgeries, fewer surgical complications, shorter hospital stays, and more surgeons who can perform minimally invasive laser surgery on patients with early-stage cancers.

Judges for the final round of pitches at the 2013 SPIE Startup Challenge were SPIE Fellows Jay Kumler, president of JENOPTIK Optical Systems, and Adam Wax of Duke University; SPIE Senior Member Jason Eichenholz of Open Photonics; Patricia Glaza, a principal at Arsenal Venture Partners; and Bruce Itchkawitz, a partner in Knobbe Martens.

Videos of the winning pitches at the SPIE Startup Challenge are available online at: www.spie.org/2013startup.


SPIE Startup Challenge prize winners, from left: Arun Chhabra of 8tree, Ryan Denomme of Nicoya Lifesciences, and Frank Palmer, CEO of ColdSteel Laser.

Reported by Christina CC Willis and Goldie Goldstein.


DOI: 10.1117/2.4201304.12

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