Industry: Bioscience & Medical
Products: Optical sensors
President and CEO Frank Caris sees new markets and new investment catalyzing innovation and product development.
An impressive 50 percent of the world's digital X-ray devices already incorporate dpiX optical sensors. Designed for medical, industrial, and defense applications, the company's proprietary sensor technology powers a wide range of applications. But Caris says that's just the beginning.
Founded with a $50 million U.S. Department of Defense grant, dpiX has innovated on technology developed at Xerox PARC in 1970 that paved the way for digital images to replace traditional film for X-rays.
A decade after launching, the company relocated to Colorado Springs, a move that was completed in 2011. dpiX's 239,000-square-foot plant is currently the largest a-Si on glass and flexible substrate manufacturing facility outside of Asia, as all design and production takes place in the U.S.
A synergistic business model has facilitated the company's growth to date. "We're fortunate that our shareholders Siemens, Thales, Philips, and Varex are also primary clients," says Caris. "In 2017, they agreed to make yet another massive investment in future product development of flexible sensors."
That has energized the already streamlined and profitable operation, he adds. "We've got exciting new products and technologies already on the horizon."
It follows that dpiX became the first in North America to implement a new manufacturing process for X-ray sensors made on flexible foil substrates in 2018. The innovative new process follows almost two decades of best-in-class digital X-ray sensor manufacturing. Now, instead of traditional glass substrate, sensors can be manufactured on lightweight foil.
Using foil instead of glass will make the company's X-ray sensors lightweight, almost unbreakable, and moldable, opening up numerous opportunities in the process. Examples include mammography, portable X-ray detectors, and military and industrial applications.
New processes that incorporate lightweight flexible sensor material enable those traditional products to become more portable and adaptable. That means pictures can be taken at a patient's hospital bedside or in the field. Another important application: curved rather than flat new flexible sensors for digital mammography.
"On the medical side, think of how X-rays get done today: A large digital machine takes a picture using traditional data-reading sensors on a fixed glass," he explains. "Optical sensor glass production uses the same material as you find in mobile phones or curved TVs."
Caris sees the broader market for more flexible products as a benefit not only to the company's traditional X-ray business, but as a gateway to new opportunities. Wearable sensors, for example, will now include tiny sensors and their batteries, both manufactured on miniscule flexible substrates -- important for military and security applications.
Challenges: "While wearable sensors represent a new and growing market for us, customer specifications can be very complicated," says Caris. "We are working to understand the market potential and to meet the high interest we're receiving from new customers.
Opportunities: Caris forecasts a tremendous breakthrough in the consumer and electronics markets. "We understand the traditional medical market and are the world's largest supplier of digital optical sensor used in X-rays," he says. "Now we see applications for wearable sensors, batteries and antennas. It's an exciting new field for dpiX. It's a lot of work to learn new processes and products, but there's something inspirational, something motivating about this new focus."
Needs: "Finding talent in a tight labor market is a continuing challenge," says Caris. "Fortunately, people like to live here in Colorado Springs. We get applicants from all over the world -- and even Silicon Valley. Some have come from other companies we work with."