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IMRE researcher recognised for significant contributions during secondment to local company

Lai Szu Cheng T-Up Excellence Award 2021
IMRE's Principal Specialist, Mr Lai Szu Cheng (left) receiving the T-Up Excellence Award 2021 from Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong during SME Day.

Congratulations to Mr. Lai Szu Cheng, Principal Specialist at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering who is one of the winners of A*STAR’s Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) Excellence Awards 2021, announced at the SME Day 2021 held on 11 November 2021.

Q: Tell us what you do at A*STAR.
I am a principal specialist and the group leader for productisation at A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE). I translate IMRE's material-centric technologies into application platforms/prototypes and collaborate with the industry to turn these technologies into real-life products. My research focus covered electronic designs for sensors, piezoelectric actuators and photonics applications.

Q: What were your motivations for working with the industry and TechnoDigm Innovation?
I aspired to develop exciting and useful innovations for practical adoption. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity under the T-Up programme to collaborate with local companies such as TechnoDigm Innovation Pte Ltd. It allowed me to validate the technologies developed in IMRE under the actual industrial settings and enabled me to advance the readiness level of the technologies towards real product development with support from industry experts. My interactions with these industry experts have also helped me gain deeper insights into state-of-the-art technologies, such as those related to UV LEDs and sensors, industrial needs, and challenges in UV-assisted manufacturing.

Q: Tell us about the company that you were seconded to?
TechnoDigm Innovation Pte Ltd is a local SME specializing in providing Fluid Dispensing and UV Curing technology services. UV curing is adopted by many manufacturing industries, including product assembly plants, 3D printing and film coating. 

Q: What do you do at TechnoDigm Innovation Pte Ltd?
At TechnoDigm Innovation, I developed a robust ultraviolet (UV) sensing solution based on IMRE's patented ferroelectric sensors. I then translated the data collected from these sensors into UV detector products or integral sensing systems in TechnoDigm Innovation's UV equipment. 

This series of standard industrial UV radiometers that I helped develop, uses electrically-polarized ceramic (PLZT) thin films which generate photovoltaic response under UV excitation. The ceramic sensing material used is highly durable and stable, which can operate under intense UV radiation and high temperature over a prolonged period without significant degradation. 

Using this new material plays a strong advantage over the conventional semiconductor UV sensors, which are susceptible to degradation and thermal drift. Therefore, TechnoDigm Innovation’s UV detectors promised a much more extended calibration validity period of 2 years, over other commercial UV detectors which have a lifespan of approximately 6 months. This helps to reduce the cost and hassle of frequent re-calibration, thus, increases the productivity for the industrial users. Furthermore, by integrating ferroelectric sensing solutions into TechnoDigm Innovation’s UV curing system, we can realise a highly desirable and rare feature of real time continuous UV monitoring. This breakthrough elevated TechnoDigm Innovation’s product competitiveness as they penetrate the global market of contract manufacturers. 

My journey at TechnoDigm Innovation allowed me to be part of their product development process. Together with the team, we developed four new products during my stint. This experience was invaluable to me and I hope to be able to share these acquired new knowledge with my team in IMRE. 

About T-Up Excellence Awards
The Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) initiative seconds A*STAR Research Scientists & Engineers (RSEs) to local enterprises to build/ upgrade their in-house R&D capabilities.

A*STAR organises the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) Excellence Awards to recognise outstanding T-Up RSEs who have made impactful contributions to local enterprises and drive knowledge & innovation-based economy.