eupry - lokal elstation

Cooling control: A start-up story from DTU Mechanical Engineering

A Design and Innovation BSc project paved the way for a new business and a new system designed to monitor temperature fluctuations in cold stores, but only after being tested in both Ethiopia and Nigeria. Ensuring constant temperatures in cold stores is essential in various contexts—especially when storing medicine. Vaccines in particular are easily damaged if the cold store does not have a constant temperature, as they risk losing their effect.

Associate Professor Ali Gürcan Özkil from DTU Mechanical Engineering teaches mechatronics on the Design and Innovation programme. He is also a board member of the Cold Chain Task Force, which is headed by UNICEF and works to solve the technical problems causing frequent interruptions of cold chains in developing countries. So when asked by Adam and Emil whether he had an idea for a highly innovative topic for their BSc project, they were given the task of developing an electronic system for monitoring temperature fluctuations in cold stores. Adam and Emil were so successful in completing the task that they were contacted by the Clinton Health Access Initiative with the aim of following up on and continuing the work.

New specialized product
The two students have developed a 'remote monitoring system' which sends a text message to a contact person when detecting critical fluctuations in the cold store temperature. Both Ethiopia and Nigeria are experiencing regular power supply failure and voltage variations, resulting in increased cold store cooling. Nevertheless, the mobile network in the countries in question is good and stable enough to ensure proper monitoring. Adam and Emil have developed a system which in itself is power failure resilient, with integrated back-up and battery. "We initially tested the equipment in Ethiopia," says Adam Hartmann-Petersen, "and the feedback was so positive that the Clinton Health Access Initiative contacted us offering their help performing further system tests". This is how the team consisting of six students from DTU was established—the team which now constitutes Eupry.

eupry eupry 
 The sensors placed in the cooling room, next to the vaccines.  Arriving in Ethiopia.



Dynamic start-up environment
Eupry was formed in May 2014, and the six DTU students had previously been working with various projects in the university's start-up environment and participating in competitions, such as Venture Cup. "Constant feedback really increased our competencies," says Adam Hartmann Petersen regarding the benefits of participating in the various activities. "The competitions were very rewarding—I met so many like-minded people, and the atmosphere was great. It was really easy talking to the others about the problems we were struggling with, and I created a lot of new contacts. As a result, we were able to go from hobby to setting up our own business." In general, the team has exploited the various possibilities presented to them—from DTU Stardust's start-up course, teaching activities, and workshops through participation in DTU Scion's Tech Challenge 2014 to basic courses at Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) in managing accounts and hiring new employees.

User-friendliness in Africa
When the system was tested in Ethiopia in summer 2013, it very soon became clear that a major product development focus area had to be user understanding and the different requirements related to operating the system in Africa. "In Denmark, we accept the fact that equipment costs are high and that you need specialists to install and maintain the system," say Adam Hartmann-Petersen. "But in Africa, users must be able to repair it themselves, as neither specialists nor spare parts are available." Therefore, the system was developed in a way that facilitates installation; it is a simple plug and play device, consisting only of a cable sensor. Furthermore, it only has one button, but various functions. The functions were designed to meet user-friendliness needs in Ethiopia, after which they were integrated in the following system development work in a Danish context.

eupry eupry 
 The system is developed with Rasberry Pi as a basis.  Testing the system.

 

Working in a different culture: Cultural differences and product development
The team behind Eupry/Adam Hartmann-Petersen has gained extensive experience testing the equipment in Ethiopia and Nigeria—experience which was both surprising and frustrating. "In Nigeria, power supply is a scarce resource. Power outages occur several times a day, and voltages increase and drop, which means that the cooling varies during the day," he says. Unfortunately, this is something they currently have to live with. Nevertheless, it was a source of great frustration among the test system users in Nigeria, because when you are in a situation where the monitoring system indicates that the temperature in the cold store is incorrect, and that the vaccines are at risk of being destroyed, there is nothing you can do about it as preventing power supply failure is out of your control. Despite the frustration, Adam underlines that they learned a great deal from testing the equipment in Nigeria: "Working with people from a different culture has truly been an eye-opener."

Adaptation to Danish conditions
Eupry's system has proven to be in great demand on the Danish market in connection with medicine storage. However, other segments can also use the system for different types of stock management, such as food storage. In future, the start-up will therefore focus on developing the product/service system in terms of both concept and prototype.

Self-employed while studying
At DTU Mechanical Engineering, Adam Hartmann-Petersen has passed his experience on to Professor Tim McAloone's Design and Innovation teaching activities. "We have two teams of students working on their BSc projects, making efforts to further develop alternative solutions to the product/service system," he says. The two projects focus on stock management with the development of a stock identification system, as well as the development of a product/service system for temperature monitoring. Adam generally feels that starting his own business while studying has been a challenge as it is very time-consuming. But he also underlines that it is possible to balance work with studying.

 


Eupry consists of:
Adam Hartmann-Petersen, MSc student in Design and Innovation/DTU Mechanical Engineering
Jakub Grzyb, MSc
in Design and Innovation
Christian Herschend Jacobsen, MSc student in Process and Innovation
Sigurd Jervelund Hansen, MSc student in Computer Science and Engineering
Jakob Konradsen, MSc student in Electro Technology
Noam Ritov, BSc in Electro Technology
  

Contact

Ali Gürcan Özkil
Associate Professor
DTU Mechanical Engineering
+45 45 25 56 41
http://www.mek.dtu.dk/english/Research/Feature_Articles/Cooling-control
20 SEPTEMBER 2018