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State Grant Advances UP Firm’s High Tech Bridge Inspection Gear

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A view of Houghton, including the Michigan Technological University campus, from Hancock. Matt Roush photo.

A view of Houghton, including the Michigan Technological University campus, from Hancock. Matt Roush photo.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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HANCOCK — Talon Research Inc. said Thursday it had received a Business Accelerator Fund grant of $44,000, which will be used to incorporate technology that complements its increasingly popular BridgeGuard infrared highway inspection equipment.

Talon introduced BridgeGuard in 2010, and it has revolutionized the way state and private bridge owners inspect the integrity of bridge decks and substructure elements. BridgeGuard uses vehicle mounted infrared imaging cameras to detect delaminations within bridge structures. It can be used at near highway speeds for deck inspections, preventing costly and dangerous lane closures.

Talon’s current BridgeGuard system is exceptional at detecting problems within bridge structures. The new product being developed with the BAF grant will be used to detect, quantify and map cracks on the surface of a bridge.

“Currently the only way to accurately map the cracks in the bridge surface is to close a lane, and have technicians map the entire surface of the bridge,” said Talon President Jay Ruohonen. “This is very time consuming, expensive and dangerous. With BridgeGuard’s enhanced technology, mapping will be done on every crack in the bridge surface without ever leaving the vehicle. We can do it for less than what it currently costs state Departments of Transportation.”

Talon learned about the grant from MTEC SmartZone Program Director Jonathan Leinonen.

“The BAF is a very competitive program for technology companies across Michigan,” Leinonen said. “Because the funds could be tied to job creation, we were able to present a strong case for funding.”

The grant required Talon to have all processes in place to create a product that could be brought to market in five months.

“That’s not very much time in the engineering and software world,” Ruohonen said. “The only way we could make this happen was with this extra grant money.”

Under normal circumstances a project like this would take Talon one and a half to two years to complete.   Another grant requirement for Talon is the use of outside contractors. They have hired local IT and marketing agencies that will help ensure the product is done in the five-month timeline.

“We are fortunate to have the support from many local talented individuals,” Ruohonen said. “With all of us working together, there is no question that this product will change the way bridge inspection is done.”   Not only is the BAF grant great for Talon, it is great for their customers.

“Using the grant money for research and development, we will be able to provide a more thorough inspection of bridges,” Ruohonen said. “The cost increase will be minimal.”

The new short wave infrared cameras will be mounted next to the current long wave cameras, and used either separately or simultaneously. Talon will be a one-stop service provider for both the detection of structural delamination problems and bridge surface cracks.

“Our customers have been asking for this for some time now,” Ruohonen said.. “Now we will able to deliver a solution that goes far beyond what anyone else in our industry is offering.”

Michigan Technological University alum and mother of seven Dorothy Ruohonen started Hawk Technologies more than 20 years ago as a mechanical design and engineering services firm, providing CAD and prototyping services to clients. Hawk Technologies is now known as Hawk Services, a division of Talon.

Talon Research Inc. was launched in 2007 and recently graduated out of the MTEC SmartZone. They have moved into a new, high-tech location in Hancock. Talon provides mechanical engineering and design services and specializes in the development of products using infrared technologies.

The Business Accelerator Fund is a two-year, $3 million fund accessed by participating business accelerators statewide, to provide specialized services to companies commercializing advanced technology. The program was developed with input from 13 Michigan business accelerators, leveraging that network to spread best practices statewide, in tandem with Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) business consulting, entrepreneurial education, and information-based planning services.

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