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This series aims to shed light on lesser-known, yet groundbreaking technological advancements in the industrial sector. In each interview, we delve into a specific company’s contributions to reshaping the industrial landscape. 

Today, we’re sitting down with Andy Reeher, the CEO of Brighton Science. 

Thank you for participating in the technology interview series and discovery. First, briefly tell us about you and your role in the company. 

Thank you for the opportunity. I am the CEO of Brighton Science and have been with the company for three years, dedicated to revolutionizing our approach to surface analysis through innovative sensing and vision technologies and software solutions, ultimately enhancing value for our customers. Before my tenure at Brighton Science, I  built a business based on predictive modeling and applied analytics.  Prior to that, I had a 16 year career at a major U.S. manufacturing company where I worked in sales, product management and marketing. My background in software and manufacturing equips me with a comprehensive understanding of industry dynamics, enabling me to drive impactful transformations within Brighton Science. 

How did everything start for Brighton Science? What was the beginning of the entrepreneurial journey?  

The heart of the story goes to the heart of our culture. Gilles Dillingham, founder of Brighton Science, is a well-known material scientist who has done a lot of work with customers, government, and aerospace. While working on a product around composites, a strategic initiative for the aerospace industry, he realized that there would be a benefit in a production environment if you could better understand surface energy and how paint, adhesive, or plastic behave depending on the level of cleanliness of the surface.  The common way of measuring this in a lab is using a drop of water and assessing the angle of the edge of the water drop also known as water contact angle measurement. It gives us a great estimate of the surface energy. Gilles’ insight, combined with our engineers, is that we could create a tool that would create a water droplet through ballistic drop deposition and allow taking a lab reading “in the wild” and being able to generate a clear estimate to know if the surface is ready to be bonded. 

As the technology was deployed in aerospace, Gilles and the founders of the company were able to share that story at technical conferences which led us to some of our first major deployments. Today, we have 450 of the world’s most respected manufacturing companies using our technology in their process. 

What is the company’s mission and what are some key market challenges it tries to resolve and address?  

Every company knows that surface readiness is critical in manufacturing processes across industry segments. Surfaces must be clean and activated prior to bonding, sealing or coating. But knowing exactly the condition of the surface is very hard, as you can’t see it without special measurement equipment. Surface readiness falls, and receptiveness of the material is undermined, leading to catastrophic bond failure or irritable failure such as paint peels, oil leaks, or catastrophic structural failure etc. 

The stakes can be quite high. The challenge in production is that you can’t see it. Our device makes the invisible, visible. I can use the device in trouble shooting, or I can use it to monitor what is happening in my production line to tell me that the surface remains with the specification as measured by water contact angle. If it is plasma, the configuration of the equipment, and the product setup can be a big variable. If we make something by hand, like an aircraft, it gives confidence that every bond is a quality bond. This aids in process definition, as when used as part of continuous quality measurement, and prevents recalls. 

Brighton’s technology gives everyone a common measurement and a common language.  Process improvement comes down to communication and improvement but also to the access to critical data points which our technology provides. 

Customers have been able to use the data to improve productivity, including to  treat the material less aggressively, removing steps from the process, and uncovering ways to automate processes and remove human error, leading to both cost reduction and sustainability improvements.  

What is a typical situation when a company calls you? How do you support them? 

Since the introduction of the technology 10 years ago, we have participated in countless conferences, etc. and many people have been getting in touch and ordering our devices. As the story came out, people with a place of failure would Google, and because of the large amount of information published on this topic, Brighton Science would pop up very high on internet searches. Inbound inquiries have been an important part of our success.  

As our scientists have been working closely with customers to find the root cause of their issues, we have learned a lot about our value proposition.  Often the reason was linked to environmental contamination in the process.  We could also see that at times issues were linked to the fact that surfaces were not very well specified.  

Two years ago, we introduced a new technology, called BConnect, and we can now demonstrate how our products are a part of the Industry 4.0 strategy.  

How do your technology and product support companies migrate toward Industry 4.0 solutions?  

Surfaces are a critical part of bonding and coating. Up till now, the goal has been to digitize and transport that information and trace the work being done up to an entire network of factories within a company. The fact that we can track human behavior speeds up processes and at times allows us to skip steps that may not be important to meet quality goals. With an improved trace, track, and control at the plant level or at the plant network level; companies can innovate and take steps out safely and with confidence.  This new approach is compatible with how we make our process circular and more sustainable. The global situation is changing, and people need to be able to adapt. Digitization helps people move ahead with more confidence based on data driven decision making. 

Brighton Science is a US-based company in the Cincinnati region, how far is your reach? Are you a US company or take to international space? Is Internationalization a topic for Brighton Science?  

Internationalization is very important. We are in the early stages of the company. Our products support customers across North America but also beyond, our US customers have taken us with them to Asia and Europe and since last year we are entering the European market directly as well. We have realized for a long time that Europe is ahead of the US when it comes to Industry 4.0 and pushing the envelope in quality and process improvement. We work closely with the help of Altix to increase exposure in Europe, and companies are very receptive to Brighton Science solutions. We help companies meet their specifications, solve their bonding issues, and use less aggressive cleaning chemicals. Europe is ahead in adopting those practices. We think it is important for us to be an important part of what is happening in Europe. We see ourselves as having a bigger role there. 

Your technology is very innovative and there was not anything equivalent in the market. What does international competition look like? 

Of course, the idea of using the shape of a drop of fluid and its wetting characteristics is nothing new.  Goniometers have been doing that for decades.  What Gilles developed and patented was the process of building up the water drop under pressure and depositing it in a series of microdroplets.  The process we developed is call “balastic deposition”.  By capturing the building of the drop with special lighting and camera, we garner a great deal of information.  One of the benefits of our method is that it can be delivered in a very small head and on a tether.  That allows us to measure in very small locations and on very small parts.  It also allows us to easily automate it.  There  

Other companies have developed handheld contact angle tools, but they are much more limited in where and what they can measure.  And of course, the portability and ease of use of our tools means that they can be deployed to be operated by production personnel without special knowledge and be guided through the required quality readings on their parts.  It is truly a tool for measuring quality across the product lifecycle and in the real world.  Our technology is much better suited to industrial applications and specifications.  

You mentioned that your device has a handheld, but you can also use it in mass production. 

Yes, an important feature of the product is that it has a tether. Operators can hold the device in one hand and take a wide range of readings. That tether lends itself to automation. Companies put our device on a robot or integrate it into a production cell to measure with precision sophisticated parts. We can work in a wide range of formats such as a 4-foot square surface and in industries as diverse as automotive, medical devices, consumer goods, aerospace or consumer electronic products. 

I heard that you work with a wide range of industries such as technology, pharmaceuticals, and automobile. It looks like many industries share adhesion challenges your technology can solve.  Do you see this demand across industries?  

When you think about it, surfaces are central to nearly every type of company.  Whether it is confirming coating on medical devices, sealing a battery case for an electric vehicle, assuring strong bonds on the blade of a wind turbine, or building windows for a family home.  Each of them depend on the condition of the first few molecular layers where their materials must interact predictably.  The importance of surfaces is not well understood by many companies, so we are focused on segments who understand how critical surface control is to reducing costs and delivering high quality.  

Well, it looks like there is a market for you and good technology in any environment. This is a great success story. What are some challenges for the company and key topics will try to address in the future? 

I’d start with market education.  Many companies are more aware of the sensitivity of surfaces than they were ten years ago when we first introduced this technology, but education of the marketplace is still a key part of our work. In 2023 we introduced Brighton Academy, where we deliver tailored learning paths for users based on their industry and role.  Our scientists and Applications Directors can conduct short lessons, courses and webinars that help users apply knowledge about surfaces as well as our data. 

The second is continuous improvement.  BConnect can be continually improved as we have experience with customers.  Both in the tools we create, and the way it enables our machine learning. With BConnect, we have networked our core technology, providing a common measurement and a common language. This measurement is easy to collect, and it can be done on a very wide range of parts and in a wide range of situations.  This data reveals root causes and also tracks to assure that a process is under control . Our product strategy has been to develop the tools for those who set and share specifications to collaborate across function and geography.  With the introduction of a set of tools we call Process Monitor, these devices now provide tests to the production line, and stream the data and notifications to tools for quality leaders.  We are delighted about the feedback we are receiving from our first customers, and are continually improving the tools.  That is one of the big benefits of our cloud based “Software as a Service” product strategy  

Thank you very much for all this information.  Tell us how with your role and Brighton Science and your personal life do you keep your work-life balance and keep your energy high to lead the company?  

I do love my work, and I make sure to keep an eye on my diet, sleep and exercise.  My wife and I talk about this work all the time, so in many ways the energy of what we are doing at the office comes from what happens at home for me. It is so fun to share the optimism I feel after talking to engineers all day at companies solving problems all over the world. It is tremendously energizing. It is inspiring to work with them.  

About Brighton Science: 

At Brighton Science, we are at the forefront of revolutionizing surface analysis technology for manufacturing industries worldwide. Trusted by over 450 leading manufacturing companies, we specialize in providing innovative solutions that empower businesses to ensure surface readiness and prevent costly failures. From aerospace to automotive, pharmaceuticals to consumer electronics, our cutting-edge technology is making waves across various industries, enabling our clients to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity and quality assurance. 

Our strength lies in our commitment to rapid innovation and the development of pragmatic solutions tailored to meet the diverse needs of our customers, from small-scale projects to large-scale production. With a focus on continuous improvement and a dedication to customer satisfaction, Brighton Science is driving forward the future of manufacturing with confidence and precision.