Fredericton-based Smart Skin Technologies has received about $4.5 million in funding to help develop new quality assurance products for the pharmaceutical and beverage industries and expand its markets.

The 11-year-old company has developed a product called Quantifeel – a pressure-sensitive container that can be fed through a production line and warn packagers of costly bottlenecks. It is now enhancing the product to allow greater quality assurance for customers, though it is releasing few details about the project.

“Smart Skin Technologies has established itself as the globally recognized innovation leader in our field with our patented Quantifeel line of products and services, which are designed to help packaging companies optimize their container handling systems,” said CTO Kumaran Thillainadarajah in a statement.

“This drives tangible benefits in productivity and waste-reduction throughout the supply chain, representing a multi-billion-dollar financial opportunity for producers as well as benefits in sustainability and environmental performance.”

The federal government on Tuesday said it would provide a grant of $3 million through the National Research Council’s IRAP program, and a $990,000 loan through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program. ACOA is also providing an additional loan of $55,000 for a marketing project.

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is making an equity investment of $500,000 in the company.

Smart Skin last raised funds in late 2018 when it closed a $3.1 million equity funding round led by Schott AG, a German maker of glass, glass-ceramics and packaging. NBIF also participated in that round.

A team led by Thillainadarajah started Smart Skin in 2008 to commercialize technology developed at the University of New Brunswick that can detect pressure on a surface and chart it in real time on a computer or other device. After testing a few markets, the team hit on a product for the beverage industry.

Food and drink companies with huge production lines have problems regulating the flow of cans. If too many containers pack the lines at once, bottlenecks occur and the system must be halted and fixed, reducing productivity. By placing Smart Skin’s Quantifeel drones — fake cans lined with a pressure-sensitive skin — in the production line, managers can monitor pressure and motion in the lines and prevent bottlenecks. The product also helps to reduce damaged products.

A few years ago, the company realized there was also a huge opportunity in helping pharma companies improve the efficiency of their packaging operations.

The statement said the funding would help the company research new markets as it aims to expand in Japan and Southeast Asia.  

The company now employs about 20 people in Fredericton, mainly highly skilled engineers. It has about 10 more in engineering, customer support and sales in other regions.

“We already count several of the world’s largest food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies as clients and export to six continents of the globe,” said Thillainadarajah. “In fact, we have won two consecutive supplier of the year awards for innovation with one large bottling organization and that type of recognition doesn't come from your product alone. It takes a broad spectrum of dedicated people who are passionate about bringing new solutions to a customer’s most pressing problems.”


Disclosure: ACOA and NBIF are clients of Entrevestor.