End, (start at No. 2)
We continue sharing our impressions from the Science and Technology Exhibition that took place on December 4-6 during Vilnius Innovation Forum Innovation Drift where the display by UAB Lumen received significant attention.
The company has developed a device that determines the position of the apical foramen – Apex Locator, which significantly facilitates work for dentists and also communication with patients for the treatment procedure may be visually shown on the screen. When interviewing the founder and manager of the company Lumen Doctor of Technical Sciences Jonas MARTYNAITIS we will try to explain how technical innovations can be beneficial at least for certain innovative Lithuanian companies that specialize in manufacture of medical equipment and materials used in dentistry and stomatology. Doctor rarely used such concepts as chips, microcontrollers, and embedded systems for this is daily matters of modern electronics that lead towards cooperation between science and business, science and industry.
When own is not a synonym for worse
Doctor Jonas, why Lithuanian dentists should choose apex locator designed by you and your colleagues rather than Japanese or German ones?
Jonas Martynaitis. Lithuanian dental clinics that pragmatically assess their work and services do not hesitate to buy our device, and say it is a great helper in their work. Of course, major clinics can afford acquiring equipment and work tools manufactured by the best foreign companies; we do not aspire to become a world centre in dentistry. When we told our dentists what direction we are taking, they supported our idea, and thanks to their advices and approvals we have made this step. I would like to distinguish a young specialist – dentist and a doctor of medical sciences from Lithuanian University of Health Sciences Eduardas Kelbauskas. Through close cooperation with him we have managed to find the right directions while designing our devices. And we were first to jump into this train. We are honoured that our device is used by the docent of the Institute of Odontology of Medical Faculty of Vilnius University, Chairman of the Lithuanian Society of Endodontology¹ Dr. Saulius Drukteinis.
¹ Endodontology – Endodontist is a doctor specialising in root canal therapy. Lithuanian Society of Endodontology is an association that unites Lithuanian endodontists and dentists as well as researchers in this field. – comment by G. Z.
He has the highest qualification in root canal therapy, he has defended a doctoral dissertation on this topic, and has been giving lectures in Poland, Italy, Turkey, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and USA. For us, recognition by the authorities of Lithuanian odontology is of extreme importance for this means that our device may be competitive in the international market. We understand that we will not become the leaders of the global market but what we did is certainly praiseworthy. It is good that we are able to manufacture a product in Lithuania, and we don’t need to bring it here from abroad. After all, the majority of different equipment used by dentists in Lithuania is brought from abroad.
Can this mean that Lithuanian companies are not eager to engage more actively in manufacturing of medical equipment despite the fact it could be a prospective area for Lithuania?
J. Martynaitis. We can be proud that at least UAB Medicinos linija operating in Šiauliai manufactures dental materials and exports them to 40 countries of the world.
It is the second time you mention a company from Šiauliai city; the first was Medica, and now Medicinos linija.
J. Martynaitis. We have to show people that Lithuania is not lagging behind the high technologies. Among the participants of the exhibition today, we saw the President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė. It is a pity that due to the lack of time she could not manage to visit our display. If she did, I would have said to her: “Your Excellency President, everything you see here is made in Lithuania, except, of course, the Apple computer”. Moreover, certain products made in Lithuania are already been exported abroad.
In order not to be accused of unreasonable self-praising, please specify the countries Lumen products have been exported to.
J. Martynaitis. Approximately 200 have been shipped to Denmark, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. Currently, certain devices by UAB Lumen are being installed at one of dental equipment manufacturers in Finland. It would be commendable that everyone do something instead of whining that everything is very bad in Lithuania. It only takes to take a better look around in this exhibition: so many inventions made by young people, and almost in all of them embedded systems are applied. Maybe we are on the number one in the world, but we definitely are not the last ones.
Benefits of specialization
How many employees work in the company Lumen?
J. Martynaitis. It might look strange, but we only have four employees working on a principle of team work. We do not produce printed circuit boards for this requires high technology and a specific specialization. We focus on science, and apply electronic components and microcontrollers in the devices and appliances. We also have a manufacturing partner in Kaunas UAB Trikdis. This company designs electronic security systems and manufactures various electronic devices. We provide this company technical schemes of our innovations and inventions, and on the agreed time we get a required number of products. Everyone should specialize in the area it is competent. We keep in touch with almost all the Lithuanian dealers of dental supplies, however, we do not engage in marketing for this is a completely different area. We do not have people nor resources for this activity; and this type of activity is not even interesting for us. We focus on designing innovative products, and analyse the trends of information technologies.
Thus, despite our company is small, it is an intellectual and creative construct that develops intellectual products protected by EU patent. Maybe, in the future we will grow and need more employees, but not today. Let’s assume there will be a need for our products in Slovak Republic, – producing a hundred or several hundreds of boards or embedded systems will not cause us any difficulties. When there is a reliable system in place and operation of boards has been verified, the very manufacture does not cause much effort for this is a result of cooperation with various manufacturers. We are taking the same path as other modern companies, i.e. cooperation. Currently, everything is based not on plastic or metal, and not on manufacturing of frames but rather on intelligence and it lies inside the products in the form of small chips, i.e. embedded systems.
In our latest device, a miniature microcontroller is responsible for almost 95 percent of device functions. Most of the elements of the old electronics has been abandoned today. If we disassemble a computer we will see that everything is only a frame with “brains” that occupies only a small part of the device. This is the way modern electronics is taking, and the possibilities are unlimited. Let other companied design the “brain”, and we will find ways to apply them. In this respect, contact between science institutions and business is of extreme importance for us.
This is the purpose of this exhibition where we met.
J. Martynaitis. This principle has been advocated and implemented by the Agency for Science, Innovation, and Technology (MITA), one of the organizers (together with the Ministry of Economy) of this exhibition and Vilnius Innovation Forum. I think these events were a success. I know well the scientists from Kaunas University of Technology where I had worked for more than a decade. I can confirm that this university has very bright minds and great programming specialists.
Importance to note those working near
I see that you have a great assistant in your display who helps to better understand application of electronic devices in dentistry while we are speaking.
J. Martynaitis. Paulius Vaškys is a PhD student at Kaunas University of Technology who engage in programming. If I had to employ a programmer that has similar qualification to Paulius Vaškys, I could hardly afford paying him. With Lithuanian scientists and specialists, we are able to design products of high professional level that match the level of products manufactured in other countries. It is very important to take the right direction aiming to produce a product that would be competitive not only in Lithuania but in the whole world. We are capable to do this.
How would you describe Paulius Vaškys’ skills; and why did you choose him as your team member?
J. Martynaitis. We should start from the historical background. We have worked with Paulius’ father at Kaunas University of Technology for more than 40 years. From his father, Paulius has inherited good skills of mathematical thinking, and currently he is a PhD student at KTU University. With the help of mathematical programming, he is able to perform the tasks we require. Soon, we will need integration of our products with other devices and this in turn will require more complex programming tasks. Paulius is given possibilities to engage in qualified work thus developing both as a specialist and a scientist.
Aren’t you afraid he will raise his wings after he improve still further?
J. Martynaitis. He is a concentrated and organized young man, and I see a bright future for him in Lithuania. We also have some other good young workers who bring modern spirit to our activity, and this is quite valuable. Creating new algorithms and applying new programming languages is a space where young specialists can express themselves. Therefore, currently we confidently take to the latest technologies for everything in the world change so quickly. The most important thing is to notice our talented youth and value them adequately before others (most often, these are usually employers from other countries) do this. Personally I count on my son Jonas, and hope he will take over the helm of our company and continue the work we have started. Currently, he is raising his qualification in the area of information technologies in Switzerland.
The time has come to develop integrated systems
What are you working on currently, and what are your plans for the future?
J. Martynaitis. Currently, we work on the project financed by the Agency for Science, Innovation, and Technology (MITA), and carry out final works in cooperation with Kaunas University of Technology. Plans for the future? We will attempt integrating our designed apex locator with other equipment, e.g. with intraoral camera. Thanks to this camera, a dentist is capable to see up to 100 times larger image, which helps him to diagnose and cure unhealthy teeth. The zoomed in image on the screen is a visual tool that helps to avoid negative consequences and monitor the course of treatment. After all, an intraoral camera or a computer is also a tool of documenting the progress of treatment that shows the results of treatment and allows comparing the post- and pre-treatment teeth condition.
We will use digital devices designed by other manufacturers, and integrate them into a single unit that will be easy to use for the doctor and allow making an image of an object in the mouth. Such device will allow providing the doctor with a complete image of treatment history, and its final result.
Another important thing in our plans is a miniature X-ray device with a digital sensor. This device provides an x-ray image of a tooth. We want to design an integrated system to use a single application and the same data base. In a clinic, a dental doctor will have all the necessary information about the patient in his computer.
We also plan to engage in applying intelligent technologies. This is a goal set for the year 2014. A doctor will come to his office, connect his mobile phone or a tablet, take a small device – a chip, or in other words, a miniature integrated circuit, take the necessary measurements, and obtain all the patient data required for the treatment. After testing the principle of measurement we are working on, and after applying intelligent technologies, we will be capable of making this device accessible and widely applicable.
Concluding our conversation I would like to say that the more devices we will be capable to connect into an integrated system, the higher will be its efficiency and demand for new devices. This is a public secret for certain companies that sell medical devices, including Medica from Šiauliai that employs many young specialists. By connecting to other devices that allow for additional options, they can design own modern dental chair and sell not a separate product but rather an entire complex of products. A prototype of a modern dental chair that we display in this exhibition is a perfect example of this type of products.