Three computer chips

#11: Ontario-based businesses and the innovation born as a result of COVID-19

The Spark: Tell us about ForceN Inc. What do you do?

Dr. Robert Brooks, CEO, and Angad Sandhu, vice-president of business development: ForceN Inc. was incorporated as Sensor Medical Laboratories Ltd. in 2015. In March 2019, the company was renamed ForceN Inc. to facilitate sales in non-medical markets. ForceN’s patented paper-thin, force-sensing ForceFilmTM technology is robust enough for industrial automation, precise and reliable enough for surgical robotics, medical devices and robotic end-effectors, and it’s light and compact enough for use in the automotive and aerospace industries.

The Spark: What was the company working on prior to the coronavirus?

RB & AS: ForceN Inc. operates as a tier-one provider of force-sensing solutions. This includes everything from the force-sensing transducer film (that generates the signal) to the systems Module (that measures and digitizes it) to the machine learning and analytic software layer, that turns the raw force data into actionable insights. Prior to COVID, we continued to supply our novel technology to customers in the fields of surgical robotics, medical devices, robotics, automation and other high-reliability industries.

“This urgent pressure sensor requirement allowed us to come together and find ways to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
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The Spark: When did you decide you could pivot to help fight the pandemic?

RB & AS: Warren Ali, the senior vice-president of innovation for the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), and the provincial government reached out to us to ask if we could help meet Canada’s ventilator pressure sensor shortage. We discussed this together right away. Ventilators need pressure sensors, like the ones made by Honeywell (TruStability sensor range). Pressure sensors control the flow of gases into the patient’s lungs and the pressure at which those gases are provided. Canada was facing supply unpredictability of these critical pressure sensors from the US or the other global production. Succumbing to the US government’s administration’s pressure, the inventory of these sensors at different global production locations, especially those in China, were earmarked to meet the US ventilator demand. ForceN’s engineering team rapidly prototyped a replacement for these TruStability sensors, using our patented technology, with minimal funding and lack of manufacturing facilities due to the pandemic lockdown. After we completed the prototyping, we were put in touch with O-Two, StarFish Medical and two other Canadian ventilator manufacturers by the APMA and the provincial government. ForceN ended up supplying samples of our replacement pressure sensor to the aforementioned companies. In the end, however, Honeywell and its peers were able to ramp up production and meet the Canadian demand. The Canadian government is still monitoring the situation as we are in the second wave. ForceN will be notified if anything changes. The Spark: What have you learned from changing focus? RB & AS: ForceN rallied to Canada’s call. Our technical team worked against the odds to make a working prototype in record time. We always worked as a cohesive unit, however, this urgent pressure sensor requirement allowed
us to come together and find ways to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We are a member of the Autodesk Technology Centre and we worked out of the Autodesk MaRS location in downtown Toronto. Due to COVID,
this location was closed, so we moved our engineering office to another location. The technical team works out of the new office and the other departments, namely, legal, logistics and marketing/business development
work virtually.


The Spark: What does your business look like moving forward?

RB & AS: Our technology has many applications and that includes the med-tech, surgical robotics and medical device industries. ForceN has been named as one of top 50 global med-tech startups in 2020 by MedTech Innovator. Medical companies continued to work during the pandemic for obvious reasons. We continued to nurture our leads in these companies, sign agreements and win orders. The focus changed from in-person to virtual meetings while converting the “interest in our technology” to paid prototype orders. Our leadership team continued to participate in virtual trade shows and conferences. The next several months are very crucial for us to ensure that our won prototype orders can be converted to volume-production orders. We continue to engage with new clients in the medical field as well as other industries, such as automation, aerospace and automotive. These other industries are gearing up for a comeback by ramping up production levels as the world adjusts to the “new normal.”


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