When Dr Carlos Labra was a research associate at the University of Edinburgh, companies including industry giant Procter & Gamble approached his research group, asking if its particle modelling software could be turned into a tool that could be used by the industry. Carlos answered and spun his company out from the university in 2014, forming Particle Analytics in 2015.
Carlos was in the enviable position of having Procter & Gamble on board as an early adopter, paying for a licence of a product that had not yet been yet fully developed.
Shortly after winning his first contract, Carlos won a SMART award was able to get development underway. Currently Particle Analytics has no direct competitors. While there are commercial solutions for the computer modelling of granular materials processes, the results and difficult to analyse and do not solve the primary problem.
The Particle Analytics platform works with any modelling software, and solves the complexities of preparing and analysing simulations. Analysis that would take a week in setup, simulations and analysis using high performance computers and requiring PhD-level expertise, now takes only a few hours and can be performed by an undergraduate engineering student.
“Edinburgh innovations allowed us to materialise our ideas and transform them into a spinout. One of the reasons to stay in Scotland is to benefit from the company support.”
In another context, designing a silo and how it discharges, from initial processes to the final report on the silo design, might take one or two weeks before Particle Analytics. In the design of a mixer drum, designers would go through 20-30 simulations to decide which design is best. The Particle Analytics platform reduces the time before and after simulation – saving up to 80% across the preparation and analysis time required.
There is also a possible future market in fluid dynamics, where granular material modelling and analysis tools could also be used.
Shortly after forming, Particle Analytics won its second contract – from Astec Inc, a major US construction machinery manufacturer. Within two months of adopting Particle Analytics’ software, it was able to optimise the design of its machinery.
Within six months of spinning out, industry leaders Pfizer and Johnson Matthey were also using Particle Analytics’ software.
Talks are in the works with other leading industrial and research organisations worldwide to become additional early adopters.
The many potential applications of Particle Analytics include mining, construction, chemical and pharmaceutical processes.
In pharmaceuticals, Particle Analytics can help understand the mixing process and achieve the optimal conditions. In mining, Particle Analytics can help in understanding better what will happen during the excavation process – how rock will break, and machines will perform, for example.