Innovative technology developed by a fast-growing firm in Wales is being used to help make precision products aimed at saving lives – and has won a Queen’s Award for Innovation in recognition of its work.
Laser Wire Solutions, based in Treforest Industrial Estate in Rhondda Cynon Taf, develops cutting-edge laser technology for the stripping and connection of specialist high value wires – used mainly in medical device manufacturing.
The firm, which employs 30 people at its Pontypridd base, was established seven years ago and in 2017 launched a new laser machine for manufacturers of medical devices.
It can strip the tough enamel coating from microscopic wires used in catheters to open clogged arteries, disperse blood clots, regulate heart arrhythmias, as well as other delicate wires found in cochlear implants, hearing aid devices and ultrasound cables.
Laser Wire Solutions developed its Odyssey-4 wire laser stripping machine in response to the medical industry’s need for ever-smaller and more accurate devices.
The technology means the potential for better diagnosis and treatment of people with often critical and life-threatening diseases and illnesses.
Before the launch of Laser Wire Solutions’ Odyssey-4 wire stripping system, medical device manufacturers had to scrape away the insulation of the wires with a razor blade while looking at the wires through a microscope – a process purely reliant on a technician’s skill.
Poorly stripped wires could result in failure during use, risking a patient’s health and damaging the manufacturer’s reputation. At best it would mean a failure during testing – resulting in high value scrap, with some catheters worth more than £10,000.
Laser wire stripping, developed by Nasa in the 1980s, has since evolved thanks to pioneering work undertaken by companies such as Laser Wire Solutions.
The company has developed a more affordable and compact system which cleanly vaporises insulation from delicate wires without damaging the underlying conductor. Closed-loop vision cameras with artificial intelligence are used to verify quality in each strip.
An automated system with guaranteed quality means medical device manufacturers are queuing to get hold of the technology. Cost and size of the machine have also been a key factor in winning new business, as the benchtop machine can easily be retrofitted into manufacturing lines.
Now Laser Wire Solutions – provided business growth support by the Welsh Government’s Accelerated Growth Programme – has been given a Queen’s Award for Innovation in recognition of its groundbreaking work.
Esther Apoussidis, Laser Wire Solutions’ marketing/PR representative, said:
“The first customer to come along in 2017 was the medical device manufacturing arm of one of the biggest names associated with pharmaceutical and consumer goods in the world.
“They trialled the machine and then were so impressed with the results that they promptly ordered 12 machines that same year.”
The company is now ordering for multiple sites in America, including Mexico, with further interest being expressed by manufacturing plants in other parts of the world.
Since its launch in 2017, Laser Wire Solutions has sold nearly 40 Odyssey-4 machines to both new and existing customers.
Ms Apoussidis said:
“The introduction of this niche technology has helped catapult Laser Wire Solutions to unprecedented growth and success.
“Laser Wire Solutions has now been recognised by the FT1000 as one of the top 50 fastest growing companies in Europe and one of the FT Future 100 UK List, which is an exclusive group of companies recognised for both exceptional and sustained growth and for their wider achievements within their industry or impact in society.”
Laser Wire Solutions’ drive for innovation and growth has been supported by Business Wales, which identified the company’s potential and placed the firm on the Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP) in 2015.
The move has helped Laser Wire Solutions increase export sales by more than £1m in a year.
Ms Apoussidis said:
“The AGP has performed an important role for Laser Wire Solutions in terms of supporting its continued global expansion. It has given the company access to funding, consultancy services on a range of subjects from strategy, IP and exporting to sales and marketing.”
Carmen Gahan, of AGP, said:
“The Queen’s Award is a recognition of the outstanding and pioneering work by Laser Wire Solutions.
“Working with AGP, the company has been able to develop its exports and expansion overseas.
“Helping firms such as Laser Wire Solutions is putting Welsh business at the forefront of international markets.
“Laser Wire Solutions has an exciting future ahead of it and we hope to continue help encourage it to grow.”