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Ontario Centre of Innovation
How Kingston’s IPG Photonics Merged Healthcare and Industrial Tech to Improve Manufacturing Processes

Success Stories

How Kingston’s IPG Photonics Merged Healthcare and Industrial Tech to Improve Manufacturing Processes

While Dr. Paul Webster was obtaining his PhD at Queen’s University, he studied a medical imaging technology called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), which is used to scan the different layers of a person’s retinas.

Seeing the potential in combining this technology with lasers in the industrial sector, he explains, “We were able to show that it was possible to measure the penetration depth of a laser beam into a laser weld in real-time. This was the first industrially relevant technology that could do this.” A now patented measurement technology, Dr. Webster’s idea would eventually be given a name of its own: Inline Coherent Imaging (ICI).

The idea received an outpour of positive feedback and led to the formation of Laser Depth Dynamics (LDD) in 2012. It also led to Dr. Webster meeting the now-late Dr. Valentin P. Gapontsev, founder of IPG Photonics (IPG), a major American manufacturer of fiber lasers.

“His company was already a well-established market leader in laser technology, and I talked to him about our idea. We were still in the early stages, so we weren’t able to start formally working with Valentin and IPG quite yet. However, they were able to grant us access to a stronger laser source that enabled us to further prove our ideas and introduced us to some of their customers.”

That early-stage support turned out to be essential to the continued growth of LDD, as it enabled Dr. Webster to show that his laser measurement technique could be applied to much greater depths–such as those relevant in automotive manufacturing. From then on, LDD was able to provide more compelling demonstrations, which would help him strengthen his confidence in the ground-breaking idea.

Seeing the value of LDD and what Dr. Webster had created, IPG acquired LDD in 2017.

The Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI) has been a proud supporter of LDD since 2015, providing support and funding through our TalentEdge Internship Program and Ready 4 Market pre-seed investment fund. Dr. Webster also received support from PARTEQ Innovations (now Queen’s Partnership) of Queen’s University, which provided a commercialization award. He was then put forward for the Martin Walmsley Fellowship for Technological Entrepreneurship, which accelerates funded research into new business ventures.

“Going through that process helped me learn a lot about forming a business. It made me realize what was even possible for someone like myself. Straight out of my PhD, I knew a lot about lasers–but not so much about business. Knowing that it was possible to access funding and seeing how others had been successful through this pathway was crucial to taking those first steps,” says Webster “Organizations like OCI really help to light the path forward, especially when you’re someone like me, who isn’t coming with connections or has family who’s done it before. Seeing others succeed is what made me take the leap.”

After winning OCI’s former Martin Walmsley Fellowship, Dr. Webster legally founded LDD, and PARTEQ Innovations would continue to support by helping him find his co-founder, Roger Bowes, a renowned tech entrepreneur who put his own money into LDD.

Continuing to build their team, Dr. Webster and Roger Bowes went on to hire researchers from Queen’s University, and then struck a partnership in 2015 with a laser company based in Michigan, U.S., called Laser Mechanisms Inc. This partnership resulted in another investment, provided access to new sales channels, and helped expand awareness of LDD through trade shows.

Two years later, renewed discussions arose with IPG that would eventually lead to the acquisition of LDD, which is now IPG Photonics Canada.

Now 50 people strong and primarily based in Kingston, Ontario, IPG Photonics Canada has celebrated several tremendous milestones since 2017. This includes launching a new generation of the product, continuing expansion with the support of research and development resources and building impactful relationships with strategic customers across the globe.

The success of IPG Photonics Canada extends to the ongoing evolution of industrial manufacturing, including that of electric vehicles (EVs).

As Dr. Webster puts it, “There’s a lot to be discovered on how best to make EVs. Our technology helps with this. We’re able to help streamline the development of welds by providing immediate results and decreasing the amount of destructive testing that’s required. This allows for faster design iterations and more effective production. To drive EV adoption, we need to make them less expensive. That requires a higher yield and lower cycle times.”