Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.InsituTec, a precision instrument company that evolved from work by the UNC Charlotte graduate students in 2001, expects to offer its first products via a Web site within weeks.

Shane Woody, a founder and vice president, tells Local Tech Wire InsituTec makes highly sensitive measurement sensors and a nanopositioning device that dramatically enhances what high tech atomic force scanning electron microscopes can do.

A nanometer, or billionth of a meter, is just 10 times the size of an atom. There are as many nanometers in an inch as there are inches in 400 miles. InsituTec hopes to sell its scope enhancement, which enlarges its scanning field and saves time, to manufacturers of the expensive instruments.

The microscope enhancement has applications in biology and computer chip manufacturing, Woody says. “Nanopositioning in the microscope industry is a $100 million market,” he adds. Components of microchips also have to be aligned to within a few nanometers.

Funds sought

Precision control of positioning at the ultra-tiny nanometer level and smaller is necessary for the science of the very small to reach any of the much-hyped goals of nanotechnology. “We’re a long way from molecular machines, but to do things on a nanometer level, you need precision control,” Woody explains. “It has to happen.”

Most of the company’s products involve motion control at these ultra-tiny scales.

The company’s name derives from the Latin phrase in situ, which is a process in its original state. “We’ve developed a rapid-probing system that has potential applications in automotive and large industrial equipment industries,” Woody says.

The company is looking for development dollars for this product, which measures inner and outer diameters of circular features of parts used in manufacturing automotive and industrial equipment. Among other things, Woody says emission regulations on large industrial equipment require tight manufacturing tolerances on engine bores, valves and other parts.

“There’s nothing like InsituTec’s instrument out there,” he says. Current “roundness tracers” require a stop-the-process, off-to-the-clean-room routine that is “incredibly expensive,” Woody says.

Getting in line

“Our instrument can be used on the shop floor,” he says and we’ve proved this out. It measures in less than a second with good precision. We’re looking at the automotive and industrial bearing industries.”

Woody says the system is about 12 months from full realization and needs $100,000 to get it to the completed stage, adding: “We’re looking for any type of funding.”

Within three weeks the company also plans to introduce “a smart, real-time input-output system that measures ongoing processes very rapidly, does signal processing and can tweak the process to keep in correct alignment in real-time.

The company has not had much luck so far with venture capitalists or small business innovative research grants. Its SBIR proposals were not successful and VCs aren’t ready for the risk.

“Venture capitalists right now want a company to have already made sales,” he says.

So that’s what the company plans to do. “We’ll be going out this fall through the United States to targeted customers,” he adds. “We’ll get one or two sales at a time. What would really launch us would be getting on a product line.”

InsituTec already is talking with leading microscope companies. “Just one company would need 50 to 100 nanopositioners a year,” he says. “They’re priced at $20,000 to $22,000 each, so just that one product could produce $500,000 or more a year.”

Woody, who completes his doctorate at UNCC this year, says he’s spent the last seven or eight years building lots of instruments at the University’s world-renowned Center for Precision Metrology in the mechanical engineering department.

InsituTec has a fixed fee agreement with UNCC for use of facilities there. The company includes his wife, Bethany, who is also working toward a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and is president. Pavan Jain is senior engineer.

Although it’s in the future, Woody says the company’s product could prove useful in making devices in the size between the macroscale and the microscale called the mesoscale. “At that level you might make a tiny fly-sized device to do surveillance,” he says.

Ameriana using DQMart

Decision Support Inc. of Matthews says Ameriana Bank and Trust has installed its DQmart for Miser, a data mart designed for users of Aurum Technology’s Miser banking application.

DQmart gives users browser-based desktop access to business information, including trend reports intended to enhance a bank’s operations management, customer service and product management. DQmart utilizes Decision Support’s data integration tool, DQbroker, enabling fast, easy access to any data from disparate applications and platforms; and DQvista, a browser-based query and report generator.
Ameriana Bank and Trust offers banking services and provides a range of investments and securities products through branches in central Indiana and in the greater Cincinnati, Ohio area.

InsituTec: www.InsituTec.com

Decision Support Inc.: www.decisionsupport.com