Tech start-up of the week: ALR Innovations

10 Mar 2013

Dr Lisa O'Donoghue, founder and CEO, ALR Innovations

Our start-up to watch this week is University of Limerick spin-out ALR Innovations, a developer of recycling equipment for liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in worldwide markets.

Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, CEO of ALR Innovations, founded the company in 2011 as a result of a research project she ran in the design and manufacturing technology department at the University of Limerick.

ALR Innovations has pioneered a LCD screen recycling technology that consists of a fully automated machine that processes waste LCDs to remove the potentially hazardous materials they contain. Materials such as the mercury-containing fluorescent tubes and the liquid crystal panel.

Future Human

The machine processes 80 LCDs per hour, which offers the recyclers a fast and efficient process that is compliant with mandatory EU legislation, O’Donoghue said.

ALR Innovations as a pioneer

ALR Innovations is also a pioneer in its field in that it is first on the market to remove the hazardous material from LCDs in the compliant process.

Up to now, the main method with which to recycle LCDs has been manual disassembly. That, said O’Donoghue, is not economically efficient, as the individual disassembly timings for LCDs is quiet large. For example, an average 32-inch LDC will take 20 minutes to disassemble.

“There has been a tendency among recyclers to stockpile LCDs until the emergency of a viable technology,” she said.

The volumes of LCDs for recycling are on the rise, as well, said O’Donoghue, especially as the LCDs are coming down in price.

“The next-generation display, including OLEDs, will eventually overtake LCDs and ALR is currently working on the development of a sister technology to recycle these displays,” said O’Donoghue.

ALR Innovations’ technology operates by using artificial intelligence which informs the system of the type and dimensions of the LCD entering the system.

“The machine, once fed with this information, can respond via a series of selected mechanical operations using specially designed tools to remove the components which contain the hazardous materials,” O’Donoghue explained. “This results in the LCD being output from the machine fully intact but with the hazardous materials completely removed.”

The technology will launch in Ireland this summer, O’Donoghue said, serving as a showcase for the international market.

“ALR is currently scheduling international recyclers from Europe, USA and Japan to view the technology live,” she said.

ALR Innovations team

ALR Innovations employs two key staff and indirectly supports a R&D team and key partners.

“ALR is proud to say the technology is Irish invented and is solely manufactured in Ireland,” said O’Donoghue. “All of ALR’s operational needs are met using Irish partners for such activities as branding and marketing, product design, intellectual property and manufacturing.”

In 2011, ALR Innovations garnered some notice, having been named best high-growth company in the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition. The accolade has been “hugely important” for the company, O’Donoghue said.

“Participation in Seedcorn allowed us to get feedback on the business plan and strategy of the company from experts in the field, and gave us a huge opportunity to meet with pioneering entrepreneurs and potential investors.”