Quality control inspection technology developed by TiHive is used to look for production line defects in hygiene and personal care product manufacturing
TiHive has received €8.6m (around $10m) in funding from the EU. The Grenoble-based startup has developed a terahertz imaging-based defect detection system which combines terahertz radiation with an AI algorithm to perform quality control inspections in real-time.
The funding, €6.3m in equity and €2.3m in grants, is from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Program within the framework of Horizon 2020. The company plans to use the funding to scale up its industrial visual inspection system and boost activities in European and US markets. TiHive expects to complete its in-progress laboratory and test facility by 2021 and hire ten additional people, bringing the startup’s headcount to 25.
“The European Commission’s strong backing will boost our commercial roll-out and scale-up,” said Hani Sherry, CEO and co-founder of TiHive. “This will be the very first deployment of terahertz imaging inspection technology at an industrial scale, opening the doors to numerous new market applications that will pave the way towards global leadership in this deep-tech innovation.”
TiHive’s technology uses terahertz radiation, the section of the spectrum between microwaves and visible light, to see through products on the production line. This part of the spectrum has been used for semiconductor inspection in recent years.
Compared to X-rays, terahertz electromagnetic waves (sometimes called T-waves) are much lower in energy so aren’t harmful to humans. They can see through paper, plastic, textiles and similar materials, producing high-resolution images at high speed.
TiHive’s implementation uses an AI algorithm on collected images to check for manufacturing defects. TiHive transmitters and receivers can be placed on either side of an object on the production line to reveal physical characteristics inside it.
Over the last three years, the company has struggled to pick a market focus, instead engaging with customers from luxury goods to performance materials. It seems TiHive has now decided to focus on the hygiene and personal care markets.
An example application is the distribution of super-absorbent polymer (SAP) material in diapers, which absorbs liquid rapidly. A typical manufacturing line makes 1200 diapers a minute. Too much SAP in each diaper and the manufacturer loses money; too little and consumer trust is lost. Contaminants in the SAP such as debris or insects can also be detected.
TiHive claims its technology can save hygiene and personal care manufacturers €10 billion opportunity in potential material savings and quality improvements.