SPINNING OFF TECHNOLOGY AS A STARTUP A decade of work by faculty and grad students spawns a business
hat makes a successful entrepreneur is a topic studied as much in business schools today, including Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, as pinpointing genetic mutations responsible for disease is in biomedical research. A number of traits tag entrepreneurs as likely to succeed — energy, passion, discipline, perseverance — but a key is also the ability to leverage resources and organizations to nurture a business concept to maturity. Sparked in part by a chance class on entrepreneurship at the Spears School of Business and developed with guidance and financial support from OSU and other public and private organizations, a technology startup
has become a case study for how university-developed technology can be incubated and spun off as a business. In the case of Roll-2-Roll Technologies, launched by a group of OSU graduate students and faculty, a support network of organizations helped develop a nascent technology business concept. What began a decade ago by mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Prabhakar Pagilla to improve the handling of rolled materials in manufacturing has grown into the development of an advanced guide system for roll-to-roll machines. These machines make a variety of consumer products using such rolled materials as paper, plastic, metal, film and fabric.
“We’ve been working on this for almost 10 years,” says Pagilla. “This has been evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Mechanical engineering student Aravind Seshadri, who came to Stillwater to earn a master’s degree, joined Pagilla’s research group to work on projects at OSU’s Web Handling Research Center, an industry partnership established to improve manufacturing using web, or roll-toroll machines. Pagilla and Seshadri developed improved sensor and control technology for web machine lateral guides, the devices that keep materials in-line during the highspeed manufacturing process, reducing downtime for manual realignment that wastes time, material and money. Their patented fiber optic sensor and control algorithm detect the position of the web and automatically control material alignment. “We have developed components in the device that are substantially better than what are used on existing machines,” Pagilla says.
Roll-2-Roll Technologies has developed an improved lateral guide for manufacturing machines that use rolled materials. The OSU technology startup developed a patented optical sensor and controlling algorithm that is at the heart of the guide.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu