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Scientific Visual SA : illuminating Sapphire – making visible the invisible

Mis à jour le 28/03/2016

Winner of Alliance Association Prize Start-up category, Scientific Visual SA has created a line of scanners that perform automated quality control by rendering non-polished sapphire optically transparent and so allowing the detection of internal defects.

Used as a watch glass, highly scratch resistant, sapphire is the ideal material to support occasional damages.

Scientific Visual is an EPFL start-up, consisting of three employees, was created in 2010 by Dr. Ivan Orlov, a material science engineer who developed an optical-scanning technology for the quality control of sapphire.

Extremely scratch-resistant, sapphire is an ideal material in the watch industry as it is used as watch covers. However its opacity may be problematic and hide certain defects and imperfections such as cracks or air bubbles that have been trapped during crystallization and are invisible to the naked eye. Traditionally, quality control for imperfections in sapphire is performed after the polishing process of each glass cover, and is a long and expensive process.

A revolutionary process

The technology developed by Dr. Ivan Orlov has revolutionized the control quality process by optically detecting defects in non-polished sapphire before the cutting and polishing process of the glass covers, and thus eliminating defective sapphire at the start of manufacturing process. The SapphiroScan ™ - the first patented machine that fully automates the quality control process of sapphires by using innovative optical liquids, developed by Scientific Visual. SapphiroScan™ sorts the pieces according to their quality and saves the “tomographic images of the sapphire. An integrated software application also produces statistical analysis that can be transmitted to crystal producers.

First step accomplished thanks to Alliance

Ivan Orlov contacted an innovation mentor at Alliance to guide and support his project. "His assistance was fantastic. In a few months we had established a CTI application and it was accepted, "says Dr. Orlov. The liquid was developed in collaboration with three EPFL laboratories: the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces (LPI), the Laboratory of Organometallic and Medicinal Chemistry (LCOM) and the Laboratory of Crystallography (LCR). Among these collaborations, Scientifc Visual fostered the most fruitful and friendly collaboration with Prof. Dyson, the project academic leader.

A growing market

As the project developed, the sapphire market also expanded considerably. In addition to the watch industry, new companies as Apple and Samsung are also looking to use this material for smartphones screens. Taking advantage of these expanding markets, Scientific Visual has secured its first round of financing and is launching into new LED smartphones markets.

Dr. Orlov’s innovation hailed a great success at the International Watchmaking and Jewelry Trade show in Geneva (EPHJ) in June 2013. In March 2015, Scientific Visual signed a contract for a new of line scanners - SapphiroScope ™ - which is based on same technology, intended for the LED industry, where the sapphire has some tremendous properties as substrate for semiconductor circuits.

In August 2015, a partnership with a large Asian distributor was also found for the marketing of Scientific Visual products in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Growth prospects looks bright for Scientific Visual, which has launched a second round of funding up to CHF 1.2 million to finance its expansion into new LEDs and smartphone markets.

Contact: alliance@alliance-tt.ch