Coventry 'machine vision' manufacturer OVST breaks China market after grants awarded for 3D sensor
Coventry-based manufacturer of machine vision equipment OVST is set for success in China following grants for further research and development of its cutting-edge 3D sensor.
Oxford Vision and Sensor Technology (OVST), based at the University of Warwick Science Park’s Venture Centre since 2017, designs and manufactures specialised 3D camera sensors for robot guidance and component inspection applications for the automotive sector.
OVST has worked with global manufacturers such as Ford, Ferrari, Jaguar Land Rover, and Honda. Millions of vehicles have been assembled using robots precisely guided by OVST vision systems.
Both OVST sensor hardware and software are designed in-house, however, the sensor was previously reliant on third-party firmware to operate. However, thanks to a grant from Coventry City Council Business Support, OVST has now been able to develop its own sensor firmware.
This means that the entire sensor IP is now wholly-owned by OVST and will allow the company to become much more competitive.
Dr Fhon Supmak, CEO of Oxford Vision and Sensor Technology, said: “One of the limitations with our previous generation of 3D sensors was that we were reliant on third-party firmware to allow them to operate, which hurt our bottom line.
“But now, by using entirely our own IP in our latest 3D sensor, we have complete freedom to operate which helps to drive our costs down. This has allowed us to launch our sensors into new markets in China.”
A further grant has been used to develop ‘OVST EdTech’, an online industrial automation learning and simulator platform for students to learn about modern manufacturing.
The firm has collaborated with Coventry University, and some students undertaking the Master of Science degrees in control, automation and AI (CAAI) have used the OVST EdTech simulator as part of their studies, with several students going on to secure jobs in their chosen fields.
Students at Warwick University taking internships with OVST also use OVST EdTech to learn industrial automation, gaining practical experience of industrial software with the same simulator environment that is currently used by several prestige automotive manufacturers. Fhon also provides support to Warwick University for various initiatives such as the “Computing Your Career” event hosted by the Computer Science department.
Fhon added: “We developed OVST EdTech as an industrial automation online learning platform for both students and practitioners. Our simulator helps to close the skills gap between academia and industry, and shows the positive impact that having practical industrial experience can have in supporting students to reach their career aspirations.”
The roll-out of the EdTech platform to universities has been supported through an award from the Royal Academy of Engineering via the Distinguished International Associates programme.
“We greatly appreciate this funding which has helped us to bring our industrial experience and understanding of the latest manufacturing technologies into the classroom,” Fhon said.
“The University of Warwick Science Park helped point us in the right direction to access the funding needed to make this a reality – they suggested Coventry City Council Business Support and the Royal Academy of Engineering as great sources for grants.
“The team at the Venture Centre has been so helpful from day one, and we are excited to see what the future brings as we continue to develop new products.”
Jane Talbot, Centre Manager at the Venture Centre, said: “It’s fantastic to hear just how useful the grants have been for Oxford Vision and Sensor Technology.
“A big part of what we do at the Science Park is advising our tenants on reliable sources of grant funding, so I’m delighted Fhon and the team have been able to take advantage of that.
“We are really looking forward to working closely with OVST in the near future to help them grow even further.”
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, said: “This is the perfect example of how grant funding, delivered and supported by the right experts, can have a real impact.
“This shift in house will ensure OVST remains competitive and I’m sure it will help to safeguard and protect jobs – which is exactly what it’s all about.”
Dr Andrew Pike, course director of the above-mentioned Coventry University MSc CAAI course, added: “Our students working on OVST projects benefit significantly from being able to access and work with the leading-edge 3D-sensor and virtual industrial automation learning software developed by the company.
"This has formed the basis of a number of successful MSc projects, with the student experience enhanced by close collaboration with OVST’s R&D experts.”