Getting warmer: stress testing startup progresses with awards at Avalon (podcast)


As a sales engineer not long out of Monash University, Kheang Khauv had early exposure to a new technique for visualising stress and understanding metal fatigue in aircraft.

It was the mid-2000s. Researchers at Defence Science and Technology Group’s Fishermans Bend labs – wanting to better understand the fatigue life of ageing F/A-18 Hornets – developed a new way involving infrared cameras and data processing.

They called the technology microbolometer thermoelastic evaluation (MiTE.) According to defence, it can not only detect fatigue based on tiny changes in temperature, but also “visualise areas of structural vulnerability, and monitor the health of a structure, all at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional techniques.”

Khauv – then employed by Flir Systems – was mightily impressed, as Lockheed Martin engineers later were when the technique was used in structural certification of F-35s. 

“What the defence [scientists] really wanted to do was to find a way to see the stress concentrations through imaging. Because what that would do is essentially just give you hundreds of thousands of stress points [usually requiring] hundreds of thousands of strain gauges,” Khauv tells us. 

The second generation, which has the working title “product two”

“With that much information, with that much detail, you can make much better, [much more] informed decisions.”

Khauv says he tried, without success, to convince the thermal imaging company to bring the Australian technique to market. 

He left Flir to co-found LRM Technologies in 2014, but his enthusiasm for MiTE never left. 

LRM licensed MiTE from defence in 2017, making the announcement at that year’s Avalon Airshow. They launched 1Millikelvin to commercialise the technology the year after.

This week at Avalon, things progressed a mite further, with 1Millikelvin taking out both the National Innovation Award and SME Innovation Award.

“It feels as though we’ve been telling the same story for the last 12 months. And slowly but surely a few more people have listened to the story, and few have told other people about the story, and finally after 12 months that same story has actually resulted in a little bit more… publicity,” says Khauv. 

“It’s just a lot of getting the word out there, talking to people, finding the right channels. And eventually talking to someone who knows somebody who knows somebody that gives you the right in to talk to the person that really understands your technology.”

In this episode of @AuManufacturing Conversations with Brent Balinski, recorded at Avalon on Wednesday, Khauv tells us about his quest to bring a clever Australian invention to a global audience, and the importance of teamwork and travel in getting there.

Episode guide

0:24 – An introduction to Khauv and 1Millikelvin.

1:55 – A little bit of history about the development of stress imaging in Australia, beginning with the F/A-18 Hornet fleet.

3:55 – Wanting to bring the technology out via Flir Systems, but not getting the blessing of the overseas head office. Then trying after he left Flir.

5:01 – How it works in layman’s terms, using a Where’s Wally analogy.

7:15 – Bringing a commercially-ready product to market. “..I quickly realised when I started the journey that I don’t have the skills. We had the ideas, we had the direction, we had some really smart people helping us at defence. But we needed the implementation.”

7:55 – Engaging Outerspace Design and what each part of the team learned from the other. Developing “product two” – a compact, ruggedised version – through an Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre-backed project.

10:05 – Current users in the research community and growing an audience beyond that, and why the aerospace industry is a natural place to look.

12:30 – Needing big OEMs overseas means a lot of travel and going to airshows.

13:50 – Winning the award and what it’s the culmination of.

14:20 – A team of two people, but not really.

15:20 – Advanced manufacturing gets talked about a lot, but we need to see more of it actually going on.

16:08 – A shout-out to defence scientist Dr Nik Rajic.

Further reading



Main picture: Khauv with Joanne Katsos, 1Millikelvin’s Marketing & Media Manager (supplied)

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