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UK firms land Queen’s Awards in latest list

22 Apr 2020

Birthday honors for innovation received by purveyors of metrology, machine vision, laser marking and more.

Once again, several UK-headquartered companies have won Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, reflecting both innovation and export growth involving optics and photonics technologies.

Granted every year since 1966 to coincide with the monarch’s birthday on April 21, the awards recognize businesses for their contribution to international trade, innovation, sustainable development, and promoting opportunity through social mobility.

This time around, some 220 companies won an award. Here are some of the winners who have been working on innovation involving optics and photonics:

Vision Engineering
Surrey-based Vision Engineering, established back in 1958, makes precision optical instruments. The firm’s latest innovation is its “Lynx EVO” product, described as a “high-productivity eyepiece-less stereo microscope providing exceptional ergonomic performance for intricate inspection and manipulation tasks in industries such as telecoms, precision engineering and medical devices”.

The eyepiece is said to be particularly useful for multi-tasking operators, who may be required to perform inspection combined with manipulation or assembly and computer operation.

This kind of work can lead to operator fatigue, potential stress and repetitive strain problems. Vision Engineering’s answer was to develop a patented technology called the “expanded pupil effect”, which is based on a multi lenticular microarray.

The surfaces of the array feature hexagonal optical structures between between 6 and 10 microns wide, with sufficient fidelity to provide high-resolution images. Such has been its success, says the firm, that it has been able to invest in substantial new research and development capabilities to deliver future innovations.

Optical Metrology Services (OMS)
Based in Essex, OMS won for its innovative rapid pipe inspection technology and service, which relies on a combination of 3D laser scanning and high-definition camera imaging.

The tool is said to save customers’ time and money thanks to early detection of problems before they become expensive and disruptive to fix. The technology can operate in pipes as small as 50 mm in internal diameter and takes less than 30 seconds to perform a scan.

Pryor Marking Technology
Now trading for more than 150 years, Pryor Marking Technology has developed a robotic laser system for improved quality, speed and reliability when marking vehicles during manufacture.

Every vehicle manufacturer in the world is required to permanently mark a unique 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) onto every chassis that they produce. The codes are used to prevent counterfeiting and theft, and are vital for traceability of vehicles during product recalls and safety campaigns.

Previously they would have relied on slow engraving techniques, but the Sheffield firm’s latest system is said to position a mark anywhere on a vehicle through the use of CCTV inside a protective light box.

Rentokil Initial
Well known by consumers for its pest control services, Surrey-based Rentokil Initial has won in the innovation category for its “Lumnia” light trap for catching insects. In what is claimed to be a world first, the trap uses LED lighting rather than traditional fluorescent tubes.

Rentokil says etymologists worked out the optimum wavelength of ultraviolet light that flies detect, and have tuned the spectral characteristics of the LED to match this wavelength precisely.

As well as providing a more precise approach to insect control, the switch to LEDs also eliminates the need for disposing of mercury-containing fluorescent tubes.

Peterborough-based Photocentric describes itself as a specialist in resins and their interaction with light, with its photo-polymers used for applications including additive manufacturing and flexographic printing.

By combining two innovations - a visible-light curing resin and the use of liquid crystal displays as light sources - the company says it is able to make printing equipment with both larger formats and higher-resolution screens.

Photocentric says that it is now working on further research, and is looking to bring its printer manufacturing in-house.

Ice Oxford
Although not an optics and photonics company, Ice Oxford was founded in 2004 to design and manufacture specialist ultra-low temperature equipment needed to assist the development of photonics-based quantum computing.

The result of its development work is a system that reaches temperatures of just 0.3 K.

ABTechIridian Spectral TechnologiesSPECTROGON ABOptikos Corporation ECOPTIKLaCroix Precision OpticsCeNing Optics Co Ltd
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