A TandemCamp team introduces itself: Startup Kaptura & Institute Fraunhofer IPA


A tedious yet essential task in logistics is the recording of (qualitative) master data, such as dimensions and weight, so that inventories can be recorded and planned digitally. The collection and maintenance of this data involves a high level of personnel and manual effort and is very prone to errors. The startup Kaptura has taken up this challenge with the development of 3D laser scanners and thus helps companies to increase the efficiency of their logistics processes. The scanners enable faster identification of objects through the automated recording of master data. In order to jointly develop an even more efficient scanner that can capture parts of all kinds of 3D, the startup from Mülheim-Kärlich is cooperating with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart.

Here, two scientific staff members are specifically concerned with 3D image processing with a focus on object recognition and classification. Together, the tandem has developed a perfect "one-click solution": an alternative scanner technology that can scan in color and whose generated object models can also be used for picking robots. The market-ready new scanner makes it possible to capture many more objects than before. Thus, further fields of application and industries can be addressed.

How did the Fraunhofer Startup Project come about?

Michael Pauly, founder Kaptura (M.P.): the Fraunhofer Institute approached us because they were looking for a suitable logistics partner for a project with a hospital. It was about the automatic recording of master data and object recognition of care utensils. We met, exchanged ideas and immediately realized that we would be a good match - both technologically and strategically. The only logical consequence was the cooperation.

What did you actually implement together?

M.P.: In addition to our previous sensor concept (laser), Fraunhofer has provided us with another acquisition technology that enables us to immensely expand the area of application of our scanner. Clearly, service robotics should be mentioned here. The Fraunhofer IPA has been a pioneer in this field of research for years, both in parts handling and in visual part acquisition. The jointly developed scanner is the perfect "one-click solution" for the 3D capture of parts of all kinds.

What added value has the cooperation with Kaptura brought to your institute?

Jochen Lindermayr, research assistant at Fraunhofer IPA (J.L.): "Kaptura's experience in sales and the implementation of CE-compliant scanners at customers such as Deutsche Bahn was decisive for us. We were therefore able to concentrate on the technology and jointly develop a market-ready product - and avoid "teething troubles".

Would you cooperate with a startup again and what are the advantages compared to projects with other (large) industrial companies?

J.L.: For me it was the first collaboration with a startup and it was really fun and successful. That's why I would definitely like to enter into another startup cooperation! In my opinion, start-ups tend to have a higher willingness to take highly innovative paths, significantly shorter decision paths and a high degree of flexibility, which enables rapid project progress.

Let's now come to the TandemCamp - competition for startup cooperations, which has enabled you to take the first steps of your cooperation. What can you advice to other tandems in this respect?

M.P.: The TandemCamp is a great format for combining Fraunhofer's core competencies - applied research - with the promotion of young companies. Through its workshops, it calls for clear goals and roles to be defined, which will definitely help to improve the structure and vision of cooperation. We were able to achieve results very quickly.

J.L.: The TandemCamp has enabled us to cooperate with the startup at all, as we need basic financing for such projects. The format was a great opportunity to explore together with the startup how such a cooperation works and to take the first steps together in order to win superiors within the institute for further steps. The TandemCamp also enabled us to meet with the Fraunhofer Venture Network: other startups, coaches, and institutes. The great thing is that you get such different perspectives and new impulses for your own project.