ESA rewards glass industry space tech spin-off

27 April 2010

ESA’s Space Spin-off Award for 2010 has been presented to Italian company Kentec for using space technology from the International Space Station’s Columbus laboratory and the Hubble telescope in a machine vision system for the glass industry.

ESA's Space Spin-off Award 2010Access the image

A special event at the ‘ESA Space Apps’ booth at this year’s Hannover Fair saw the award presented to Colm Kenny, CEO of Kentec S.r.l., by Johann Friedrich Colsmann, a member of the cabinet of Antonio Tajani, the European Commission Vice-President responsible for industry and entrepreneurship.

Kentec’s machine vision system is being customised for glass production by the Italian company Vetrerie Riunite S.p.A., a leading manufacturer of car headlights and windows for washing machines.

The system works continuously and fails ‘gracefully’, permitting maintenance during normal operations. Fault-tolerance and graceful degradation guarantee continuous operation as long as possible, even in the event of a failure of one or more components or functions.


"In space we cannot just send up a repair man to fix a satellite," explains Frank M. Salzgeber, Head of ESA Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO).

"But failures happen even if we use the best and most reliable components, so we have designed our systems with graceful degradation so that they continue operating even in cases of component breakage."

Kentec's camera with image processing space techniquesAccess the image

"Given the fault-tolerance and graceful degradation requirements imposed by the glass process on the machine vision system, it was designed and developed using the same criteria as that of a critical space system," explains Colm Kenny.

"In realising the system, three distinct space technologies were employed: data management over a distributed platform; hardware and software redundancy techniques; and advanced image processing techniques."

The joint ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope
 Access the image

"These technologies were acquired while working on the data management system of Europe’s Columbus space laboratory and the EC’s RACE project IOLE (Integrated On Line Environment), which rely heavily on advance space systems technology, and from advanced image processing techniques taken from the Hubble space telescope."

"Our prototype, built on these technologies from space programmes, provides a 100% uptime solution for critical machine vision applications and can be customised for a number of specific industrial manufacturing processes."

Space tech spin-offs for headlight glass productionAccess the image

The company foresees potential clients among industries where machine vision is already being used or where human visual control could be automated, as in industrial production of glass, paper, metals, plastics and textiles. Such high-reliability systems could also be applied in medicine and surveillance.

The transfer was initiated by TTPO’s Italian technology broker D’Appolonia, which spotted the potential and brought together Kentec and Vetrerie Riunite.

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)

The main mission of TTPO is to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications and to demonstrate the benefit of the European space programme to European citizens. The office is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies, including the incubation of start-up companies and their funding. For more information, please contact: ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office
European Space Agency ESA
Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG, Noordwijk ZH
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0) 71 565 6208

Note for editors:
IOLE was part of the European Commission’s ‘Research and Development in Advanced Communication Technologies in Europe’ (RACE) projects.

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