World class joint research between Joensuu and Japanese Olympus generates industrial applications for multi-spectral imaging

When Olympus, the Japanese powerhouse of optics research and development, announced research collaboration with the Joensuu region photonics cluster, some outsiders were quite surprised by the move. Insiders at the photonics cluster were not.

Joensuu boast a vibrant hub for research and development in photonics. It is the leading hub in Finland in its field, and in top 10 worldwide. Thus, it appeared a natural research partner to Olympus.

Applications range from medicine to forestry

The joint project was coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland and Joensuu Science Park, and funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. The focus was on multi-spectral imaging. Multi-spectral imaging can be used to observe and measure multitude of different phenomena. New applications are invented continuously.

“The application field for multi-spectral imaging is very diverse. For instance, in medicine, it can be used to examine various diseases. Other type of application can be found in forestry, where multi-spectral imaging can be used to survey forests, terrain, and natural resources”, says professor Markku Hauta-Kasari, University of Eastern Finland.

Medical applications are of particular relevance to Olympus., as the Japanese giant is the leader in medical imaging.

Industrial prototypes

The joint project was involved in both fundamental research and developing industrial prototypes.

“Fundamental research activities dealt mainly with finding the most efficient ways to store and and compress spectral images. The essential are of interest, of course, is how new findings are transformed into practical applications and business”, says Juha Purmonen, development manager, Joensuu Science Park.

The project was joined by three industrial partners. These were  composite developer and manufacturer Exel Composites, locking company Abloy, and outsource design, development and manufacturing company Phillips-Medisize. The goal was to use photonics to improve productivity and product quality.

Exel Composites developed a prototype of a measuring device that can “watch”  products using multi-spectral imaging, and adjust the manufacturing process in real-time if needed. The method raises the quality assurance to a whole new level.

Abloy, famous for its lock and key technologies, developed new innovative ways to use photonics in locking.

The third industrial partner, Phillips-Medisize, offers outsourced hi-tech development and manufacturing services for medical and other applications. The company participated in the project to gain experience in joint research activities in photonics, and to survey future possibilities for its own business.

World-class photonics cluster caught Olympus’ eye

In most research fields, American universities and research organizations attract the brightest talent worldwide. Joensuu, however, has established itself as a world class hub in photonics research. Joint research activities with Olympus are a telling example of this.

Joensuu’s prominence in photonics research is rooted in the physics department of the University of Eastern Finland, which is the leading department in its field in Finland.

In addition to academic research, Joensuu region boasts a lot of companies that develop or apply photonics in their business.

Olympus aims to build a solid ecosystem around the Joensuu photonics cluster and bring together the expertise from bio sciences and medicine, imaging and signal processing, and IT and big data.    


Tommi Niittymies/Netprofile

Miia Linnusmaa
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