St. John’s-based InspectAR Augmented Interfaces Inc., whose technology helps to simplify the production of printed circuit boards, has received an $850,000 investment from two American companies.
The young company, which grew out of the engineering program at Memorial University of Newfoundland, issued a statement saying the company hopes to double its staff this year as it accelerates development of its product. The $850,000 equity investment came from Royal Circuit Solutions and Advanced Assembly, two PCB manufacturers that are based in the western U.S. and have a family connection with InspectAR.
InspectAR uses augmented reality to help electrical engineers and electronics technicians to quickly assess and improve the state of the printed circuit board, or PCB, that they’re working on. Its software can inspect, debug and rework a PCB, while assisting with assembly and collaboration.
“This really is a tool that electrical engineers or electronic technicians can use to interact with and explore their boards in ways that were not possible before,” said Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Nick Warren in an interview. “In electronics, a lot of innovation is happening at the design stage and on the manufacturing side there’s a lot of pressure to run around quickly and catch up.”
The origins of InspectAR are similar to those of St. John’s success story CoLab Software in that both companies came out of senior year projects at MUN. Students have to take everything they’ve learned and apply it to a senior design project.
Warren and his collaborators decided to centre their project on circuit boards. In fact, Mihir Shah, who is now the CEO of the company, has a family background in PCBs as his father Milan Shah is the owner of circuit-board manufacturer Royal Circuits, based in Salinas, California.
The team used augmented reality to assess the state of circuit boards and make it easier for hardware producers to work with them. On graduation, they launched it into a company, which they hope will revolutionize the hardware industry.
InspectAR’s seven-member team launched its first product in mid-November, and since then about 600 users have adopted the free platform. Of this group, about a dozen are paying customers, including Mysa Smart Themostats of St. John’s and Digi-Key, a Minnesota-based electronics distributor that has more than US$3 billion in annual sales.
“InspectAR has made a big, positive impact to our team,” said Dennis Field, an engineer with another client, RadioSound. “It has saved us a lot of time, allowing us to be more efficient and engineer amazing products.”
The early adopters include Royal Circuit and a Colorado company it partners with, Advanced Assembly. They are impressed enough with the product that they became investors.
Warren said the company can target a huge market as there are about 600,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. alone. CEO Mihir Shah is now working out of the San Francisco area, which gives the company a sales presence in the California market.
The development team is based in St. John’s, and the company intends to use its investment to hire new developers, aiming to ramp up total employee headcount to 15 by the end of the year.