Robotics

MnDRIVE-funded startup delivers tech research to market

College of Science and Engineering, November 22, 2021

Rajesh Rajamani develops sensor technology to make machines smarter. Most recently, the College of Science and Engineering professor’s lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering designed a sensor for cars that uses magnetic fields to estimate the positions of other nearby cars and detect imminent collisions.

Now, Rajamani’s startup company Innotronics is using that same sensor technology to detect the position of actuators that help machines move.

“Contacting sensors tend to break down over time,” explained Rajamani, who holds the Benjamin Y.H. Liu / TSI Applied Technology Chair in Mechanical Engineering. “For example, LVDTs, which are very accurate position sensors, are significantly more expensive, yet they break very easily under shear loads. Non-contacting sensors like ours are going to essentially survive much longer. They don't really have any moving parts, and because of that, they are much more reliable.”

The Innotronics sensor, which is also more cost-effective than other types of position sensors, was recently licensed by Fortune 500 company Parker Hannifin and is now being used on MasterCraft boats optioned with the company's new SurfStar system. 

Innotronics’ success is no small feat, according to Rick Huebsch, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Technology Commercialization, a division of the Office of the Vice President for Research. Only a fraction—five percent or less—of inventions developed at U.S. research institutions end up making it all the way to commercialization.

An illustration of the Innotronics sensor