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Tech company from Flanders launches world’s smallest motor

Greatness can sometimes be found in the smallest things. Xeryon, a tech company based in Leuven (Flanders), takes this to the next level. It has developed “the smallest motor/actuator in the world” for medical devices, 3D printers and many other applications. “We took an educated gamble, and it worked out well,” says Hans Clijsters, CEO and co-shareholder of Xeryon. After more than a decade of tinkering, first as part of Flanders’ and Europe’s most innovative university KU Leuven and since 2013 as a stand-alone company, Xeryon launched its cutting-edge micromotor.

Utilizing the piezoelectric effect

The technology is based on the piezoelectric effect, the phenomenon that crystals of certain materials produce an electrical voltage under the influence of pressure and vice versa. Xeryon’s micromotor consists of a piece of ceramic material – barely 10 by 10 millimeters and 2 millimeters thick – that is put under tension and vibrates up to 200,000 times per second. For example, it can move the axes of a 3D printer in increments of 1 nanometer, a millionth of a millimeter.

Most motors spin around and set gears in motion, but they wear out and lose accuracy. Our patented solution uses no gears or other moving parts and works extremely fast and precise.

Hans Clijsters
CEO and co-shareholder of Xeryon

Medical and other applications

At the moment, Xeryon is primarily looking at the medical world as an application area. “We already have an agreement with a manufacturer of microscope tables,” Clijsters explains. “Suppose you want to take 10,000 pictures to analyze cells, with each cell being 100 nanometers from the next. You cannot manage such a vast amount and high level of precision manually. You’ll want to automate the process – and you can do just that with our technology.”

“The applications in the medical world are numerous,” Clijsters continues. “Think of devices for blood analysis, DNA analysis or dosed drug delivery. For the latter application, Xeryon is currently discussing a project in China. What’s more, an American university has bought 150 microactuators for brain research in rats. The rats have some 150 needles in their brains that are controlled by the actuators to activate specific areas of the brain. There are also applications for robotic surgery, the chip industry, VR glasses … In short, we come into the picture whenever fast and precise movements are needed and everything needs to be as small as possible.”

Factory on the way

Meanwhile, business is going very well. “Sales went up from EUR 20,000 to EUR 1 million in just three years,” Clijsters confirms. To continue this momentum, Xeryon plans to build its first actuator assembly plant at the Haasrode business park in Flanders. Initially, the capacity will be 50,000 motors. By 2026, the factory would generate about EUR 10 million in sales.

Construction requires an investment of EUR 5 million. 80% is financed by bank loans; 20% through fresh capital. The rest of the planned EUR 5 million capital round will serve to further expand the team from 12 employees now to 50 within 4 years.

Sales professionalization

Furthermore, Xeryon will take a more structural approach to its commercial activities. Clijsters: "We actually achieve our current turnover without any specific sales efforts. We don’t go looking for customers, they find us, even high-tech players in Silicon Valley. How? Simply by using Google. If a design engineer at Apple, for instance, searches for “the world's smallest motor/actuator” online, they will easily and quickly find our website. We get 60 to 70 requests a month from companies we’ve never had contact with before. It never ceases to amaze us.”

More info

Reported by
newspaper De Tijd
22 December 2022

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