Reliably measuring the forces and temperatures occurring on rotor blades of wind turbines and using the data to optimise the control of the turbines: with its fibre-optic sensors, fos4X makes this possible, especially when lightning can disturb the usual measuring methods. The company, which was founded in 2010 by doctoral students at the Technical University of Munich, wants to apply this technology to other industrial sectors as well. A look back and forward with fos4X CEO Lars Hoffmann.
What is special about the business idea of fos4X?
In many areas of industry, our technology brings a significant increase in effectiveness and at the same time reduces costs. To achieve this, it is important to know that conventional electronic sensors can be disturbed by high voltages – such as lightning strikes. This applies to wind turbines, for example, which must function reliably for decades even under harsh environmental conditions. We eliminate these problems using fibre-optic processes with glass fibre cables for data transmission.
What can be made with it?
Icing in winter is a considerable problem for wind turbines. The vibration behaviour of the rotor blades changes with ice build-up. Thanks to our technology, icing can be measured as it occurs. In critical moments, the turbine can be shut down automatically to protect it from damage. As soon as the ice has defrosted, the wind turbines are also automatically restarted. The industry has recognized the efficiency and cost benefits of our technology. The majority of the top 10 wind energy companies are among our customers.
Who supported the foundation?
Especially important for us at the beginning were the High-Tech Founder Fund and UnternehmerTUM – and of course the TU Munich. In addition, we had business angels on board who supported us as coaches. This mixture of institutions and people was a great help.
Why the Munich location?
All four original founders come from Bavaria and were at the TU Munich. So we never considered anything else. In the meantime, Munich has become an excellent start-up location, especially for the areas of industrial IoT, machine learning and high-tech hardware. Access to potential investors is also good recently.
What’s on for the future?
Continue to grow successfully. Finding good employees, however, is not easy even in Munich. From a technical point of view, the most important goal is to establish our technology as the standard. And not only in the wind energy industry but also in other industries. We are thinking above all of high-voltage grids and aviation.