Finnish robots test devices for global mobile giants

“Out of the ten largest mobile phone companies, eight are our customers and have purchased our testing technology inside the past two years,” says Pertti Aimonen, CEO of Optofidelity.Optofidelity “Out of the ten largest mobile phone companies, eight are our customers and have purchased our testing technology inside the past two years,” says Pertti Aimonen, CEO of Optofidelity.
 

Do you own a touchscreen device? Chances are it has been tested by Finnish human simulator robots.

Imagine a robotic arm shaking and rotating a smartphone and using it with mechanical fingers to simulate how a real person would use their phone. Machine vision monitors the screen while several sensors measure accuracy and response times of the user interface.

This is what a typical testing system looks like at Finnish technology company Optofidelity. Since 2005 the Tampere-based company has been providing some of the biggest handset, computer and car manufacturers with lifelike user experience and performance testing.

In fact, Optofidelity is one of the global leaders (or the leader, if you ask the company) in robotic user interface testing systems for touch devices.

“Out of the ten largest mobile phone companies, eight are our customers and have purchased our testing technology inside the past two years,” says Pertti Aimonen, CEO of Optofidelity. “Most of them are based in the US and some in Asia.”

Optofidelity’s technology detects audio, visual and haptic events. It can be used for example to test how device performance changes during different product development phases as well as to expose potentially costly faults before devices end up in the hands of consumers.

While Optofidelity cannot reveal much about its clientele, it can name one: China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator. Not bad for a company which in the past 18 months has grown from 21 employees to over 50 and opened its first office abroad in Silicon Valley, California.

Secret sauce

The secret of Optofidelity’s success lies in a unique combination of machine vision, robotics and cognitive measurement software. This helps to speed up customers’ R&D processes as the automated test system can be used throughout the product development phase to simulate real-life user experiences.

Optofidelity wants to be close to its customers. Its robotics testing systems are primarily assembled and tested in Finland with partner assembly facilities already in China and Taiwan and a US partner facility will be added soon. (Photo: Optofidelity)

Unlike people, robots won’t get tired or slow even if tests are repeated for hours on end.Optofidelity wants to be close to its customers. Its robotics testing systems are primarily assembled and tested in Finland with partner assembly facilities already in China and Taiwan and a US partner facility will be added soon. (Photo: Optofidelity)

“The best product quality, end-user satisfaction and faster time to market can be guaranteed only with automated end-to-end testing,” explains Aimonen. “The testing philosophy of Optofidelity is to test devices with a robot which simulates human behavior. You can define your own test cases, simulate long term product use and catch sensor and software faults before products are released to the market.”

When Optofidelity first started, it focused on R&D consulting and customer specific testing, which it still offers for its home market in Finland. But the company soon realised that to conquer global markets it needed to translate its expertise into products.

Consequently Optofidelity’s first robotics testing system was introduced internationally in 2010. Today the company has a test robot concept for any touch enabled device, be it a small wearable with curved display or a huge touch wall.

Keeping up with the demand

The change of direction has payed off. Last year alone, Optofidelity saw its turnover to grow by more than 60 percent. Around 80 percent of the company’s products are exported, mainly to the US and Asia, and used throughout the electronics industry from component manufacturers to operators.

“Nobody else offers the same combination where you can integrate, for example, component validation and performance measurements into the same system. The versatility of our products is a major advantage,” Aimonen says.

The fast changing world of technology means Optofidelity is never standing still. It invests heavily in adapting its technology to the latest testing trends, whether it is curved displays, 3D imaging, gesture control or communication between devices, such as a smartphone and a smart watch.

And we aren’t only talking about phones and tablets. The latest addition to Optofidelity’s customer base is the automotive industry.Car dashboards today not only have touchscreens, but can have gesture and voice control or offer advanced integration with smartphones. It all starts to sound more like science fiction than the real world.

“The current trend is machine to machine communication. There will also be lots of new control methods and the number of sensors in devices is growing. The industry leaders test and validate more components and end-products and faster than ever before,” says Aimonen. “At the same time, devices are very complex and product recall costs are high. There is growing demand for our testing technology as devices get more complicated.”

It looks like Optofidelity’s robots won’t be booking their holidays anytime soon.

Text: Eeva Haaramo
www.optofidelity.com
Good News from Finland

Hetitec finds new uses for 3D printing

Hetitec1© iStock.com / vgajic
 

Media often shows potential uses for 3D printing in the home of the future, but many industries have already adopted the technology.
Computer Aided Design changed how we design things and 3D printing changed how we make them. The Finnish company Hetitec has combined the two for an innovative service.
“Often the media writes about it as if it might be useful one day, but 3D printing is now!”
Ville Moilanen is living in the future, at least according to these articles he is talking about. He is the CEO of the Valkeakoski-based Hetitec, a specialist in on-demand 3D printing. Popular media often shows potential uses for 3D printing in the home of the future, but many industries have already adopted the technology.
Hetitec primarily helps to manufacture complicated moulds and cores for metal foundries. The mould is 3D printed directly from Computer Aided Design (CAD) data, so the elaborate and expensive mould set-up process is avoided.
Many advantages
The process is faster and less expensive than traditional methods of manufacturing. It is also adaptable, because if there is a problem with the design of a part only the CAD data needs to be changed. If the designer wants to try several variations, it is simple to change the data and manufacture different versions. Since it is all stored digitally companies don’t even need to store physical models like they used to do.
“Our technology removes the need for traditional tooling and patterns when manufacturing moulds, thereby cutting the tooling costs and time to market considerably,” Moilanen continues. “When compared to other 3D printing materials, our technology offers an unbeatable price, making it possible to print bigger parts that never used to be considered economically reasonable.”
Hetitec has enjoyed good growth since it was founded in the spring of 2013. Moilanen also points out that the geographical location of Finland has helped the company.
“We have had a very good start to the year. I hope the trend continues and we keep on growing,” he says. “We are planning to become the leading service provider in our field in Scandinavia. Russia might be next. We are located in the EU, but our facilities are only 440 kilometres from St. Petersburg.”
New uses
Although Hetitec primarily serves specialised industries, the technology is such that it could be used for a variety of applications.
“We have end customers that are producing forestry machines, shoes, supercars, packaging for fish and even garden elves,” says Ville Moilanen, CEO of Hetitec.

Hetitec2“I’m sure that our material can be used as a mould for almost any material,” explains Moilanen. “So basically anything you want to pour, bend or laminate into some kind of mould. And I’m not talking about only 3D printed moulds, but often we manufacture parts that are used in the process of manufacturing the final mould from various materials. We are already working with metals, plastics, concrete, rubber, carbon fibre and glass.”
He mentions that artists could 3D print large works of art, but probably the early adopters will be in various branches of industry.
“We have end customers that are producing forestry machines, shoes, supercars, packaging for fish and even garden elves. I’m sure that companies that find innovative ways to manufacture their products are staying more competitive than the ones sticking to their old tricks. We just have to promote our technology so that as many people as possible hear about it and think: ‘Could this be used to produce…?’”
 
Text: David J. Cord
www.hetitec.com
Good News from Finland