The Silicon Review
“Our flagship Gocator product line helps factories achieve 100 percent inspection, reduce waste by optimization, and improve efficiency by simplifying automation.”
3D scanning can transform any business in the engineering, design and manufacturing, development or testing industries. The technology is increasingly being adopted across the world, not only for improving the speed of the average process cycle but greatly enhancing the overall quality of the end product.
Put simply, 3D scanning captures digital data about the shape of a particular object using cameras, optics, and lighting to measure the distance between the scanner and the object itself with a high degree of accuracy. It’s now being used to digitize complex parts of all shapes and sizes, from the tiniest electronics to a jumbo jet to ensure manufacturing tolerances are met to a few microns.
In light of the above-mentioned scenario, we are thrilled to present LMI Technologies Inc.
LMI Technologies develops and manufactures three-dimensional (3D) scanning and inspection products. It offers solutions to scan, align, and build 3D models, as well as 3D inspection software. The company provides solutions for quality control and process optimization applications based on its flagship product called Gocator, which offers a web-browser based user experience to setup, visualize, measure and issue control decisions to a factory. Gocator is smart 3D technology in action with software running inside to generate 3D surface maps, extract 3D features, and perform analysis to ensure production tolerances on manufactured parts are being met.
The company caters to automotive, factory automation, consumer electronics, rubber and tire, road and railway, wood processing, solar and battery industries.
LMI Technologies was incorporated in 1998 and is headquartered in Burnaby, Canada.
Terry Arden, LMI Technologies, Inc. CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
LMI Technologies is the result of five companies that merged in 1998, each of which applied laser triangulation technologies into various markets – wood, rubber & tire, road, automotive, and factory automation. Since then, LMI has expanded its technology portfolio and its presence worldwide into new markets such as consumer electronics (CE). The company really took off once we realized we needed a generic 3D sensor loaded with smart inspection software that was easy enough for distributors to configure and deliver into a broad number of applications. The marriage of 3D hardware with web-based easy-to-use software gave us a platform that kicked our growth into high gear.
Q. What challenges did you face in your initial years? What can your peers learn from it?
When I joined as CTO, I was facing the recent merger of these five companies comprised of separate R&D groups, product portfolios, technology platforms, part numbering and bill of material systems, and so on. Quite honestly, it was a mess. That’s when I decided to start a new technology platform that integrated the best designs across the group (mechanical, optical, software, hardware, calibration and alignment, and so on) and rolled out new products to market that led to our current leadership in 3D scanning and inspection. This took a number of years to achieve. The older product portfolios were parked as legacy, and we began migrating our customer base to the newer products. This was the right approach, and it took a keen eye to review the older platforms and learn the many hidden bits of knowledge that simply weren’t formally documented anywhere.
Q. How successful was your first project roll out? Share the experience.
The first project rollout of our new technology platform was for the wood market, where we had a strong presence in the sawmills of North America scanning both log and boards to maximize volume recovery of wood fibre. The wood industry, surprisingly, is one of the toughest environments to build reliable, high-performance 3D scanning solutions. We invented a patented optical design that offered a breakthrough in high-speed 3D lumber profiling and color vision and rolled it out in a new series called chroma+scan. The revenue development from that product line alone fuelled our investments into other markets by capturing a significant portion of the wood market in North America and Scandinavia. We used the wood industry to bootstrap ourselves into an even bigger market – factory automation – with the development of the Gocator series, our leading portfolio today.
Q. What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
Our customers are largely using 2D machine vision solutions and require education on the benefits of 3D. With the megatrend of robot automation today, customers are realizing they need 3D solutions that provide the ‘eyes’ of the factory and can drive automation to the next level – a smart, dynamic system of automation instead of a preprogrammed, repetitive, inflexible system. So customers look to us to help move them forward. I also learned that each market has a specific problem that needs a ‘killer app’. Once you figure that out and deploy it on your hardware, you get traction. Strangely, customers pay for hardware and not so much (if anything) for the app but it’s the app that opens the door.
Q. Is your company a ‘leader or follower’? Do you formulate your own core values?
We are a global leader in 3D scanning and inspection solutions. We are at the forefront of applying 3D technologies in a wide range of applications that lead to better product quality, and the optimizing and automation of processes in the smart factories of today. We call this FactorySmart. We are talking about a TAM (total addressable market) of several billion. We created these core values to capture our culture and maintain that as we grow further:
Q. What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?
LMI has built a reputation on product performance and customer support. I believe these are the two major factors that have led LMI to a leading position in many of its markets. Product performance (best resolution, speed, package size, reliability, and so on) requires a lot of R&D investment. Customer support means putting talented people in key areas around the world so they are immediately available and then constant training and rewarding of staff in maintaining happy clients.
Q. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
LMI has seen an average 20 percent year over year growth for eight years now. We anticipate this is only going to accelerate as factories get smarter, driven by a need for greater quality, efficiency, and flexibility. This translates into greater use of 3D vision that LMI expects will keep us busy for many years to come.
Terry Arden: A Brief Background
Terry Arden joined LMI Technologies in 2003 as Chief Technology Officer, where he applied his engineering and management skills to consolidate several worldwide R&D groups onto a common sensor platform. In 2009, he took over as CEO and created the company’s flagship Gocator® product line, which is an all-in-one 3D smart sensor solution focused on delivering inline inspection for 100 percent quality control in today’s smart factories.
Mr. Arden is passionate about the fusion of hardware and software for the greater goal of building “smartware”–technology with the ability to see, think, and do. He believes vision technologies with deep learning capability provide a powerful combination to leverage in the design and development of these smart solutions.
Mr. Arden holds a BSc. degree in Computing Science and Mathematics from Simon Fraser University, and several patents in image processing and optical triangulation methods.