The SOPAT success story - on the trail of modern particle analysis
An overview of the company history: from the first thoughts on automatic particle recognition, to the important developmental and success mile stones, to today.
The Foundation of SOPAT
The foundation for SOPAT’s success was laid in 1996, 15 years before SOPATec UG was founded. Joachim Ritter and Prof. Matthias Kraume investigated first scale enlargements for stirred liquid/liquid systems at the TU Berlin [1,2]. Only 3 years after the start of research they had developed an inline measurement technique for droplet size determination, the basis for the future SOPAT technology.
2003 – 2005 / From Research to the Idea
Already from 2003 on, Dr. Sebastian Maaß worked on the improvement of the existing system under the supervision of Prof. Kraume at the TU Berlin. In cooperation with Dr. Ansor Gäbler he developed a more user-friendly Windows version of the software, which completely replaced the older Linux version. In the following years, the team worked especially on improving the time efficiency and the accuracy of the drop size distribution in order to create an effectively applicable measurement and analysis instrument.
2006 – 2010 / First Collaborations
From 2006 on, the focus of attention was on the automated detection of the examined particles to simplify the tedious work of manual particle analysis. The successfully developed and reliable system also aroused the interest of the industry. Thus, a first cooperation with SULZER ChemTech was established in 2009 and another one with the global corporation BASF followed in 2010.
2011 – 2012 / The Founding Trio
Motivated by this, the two colleagues Dr. Sebastian Maaß and Jürgen Rojahn decided to commercialize the technology they had developed in the form of SOPATec UG. For a sustainable and balanced distribution of competences, the third founder was sought and found with Jörn Emmerich, thus enabling SOPATec UG to be incorporated in January 2012. After an outstanding feedback from the first customer after 6 months, recognizable by 15,000 saved laboratory hours, in 2012 the three shareholders decided to convert the company into SOPAT GmbH and to develop it further.
2013 – 2017 / First Successes as SOPAT GmbH
Confirmed by the EFCE Young European Research Award and an EXIST scholarship, the three visionaries soon followed their innovations with economic facts. With the certification according to DIN EN ISO 9001 and the development of the SOPAT MM and InView system, numerous customers in a wide range of industries could be won. The company, which received the Step Award from the FAZ in 2013 and was named ICT Foundation of the Year in 2015, continued to grow. Already in 2016 the 25th SOPAT system was sold and due to the rapid expansion the move to the new offices in Boyenstraße 41, 10115 Berlin was necessary. The installation of a multisensor system and the first successful ATEX certification were the main reasons for the 50th sale of a SOPAT system one year later.
2018 to date / International Partners and new Product Developments
In 2018, SOPAT continued its business just as successfully. Decisive factors were, among others, the expansion of cooperation with a wide range of sales partners in the respective countries was decisive for this. In 2018, the tenth partner was acquired for this purpose. With the further development of the InView probe to InView 3 and the IECEx certification of the ATEX system, SOPAT was able to present its extended product range as a main exhibitor at the world-famous ACHEMA in summer 2018. The subsequent increase in sales of 40 % compared to 2017 enabled another major growth spurt.
In 2019, under a new shareholder structure, SOPAT moved to offices at Ordensmeisterstraße 15. The SOPAT team, which has grown to more than 20 employees, developed a system for off-shore installation in the Pacific for the first time at the end of 2019, as well as the ChocoScope, which was specially developed for the food industry and already aroused great desire among giants of the chocolate industry such as Nestle or Ferrero in 2020. SOPAT also celebrated its entry into the Canadian market.
However, the SOPAT success story does not end there, but continues to the present day with a strong international service and support network of 18 distribution partners and a growing and successful customer base, such as among others Bayer and Beiersdorf. The SOPAT technology is constantly being refined and the product portfolio is being expanded into other key industries. Using cutting-edge image analysis algorithms and particle classification based on neural networks and machine learning, SOPAT is able to make its analysis even more precise and faster.
(1) J. Ritter and M. Kraume. Untersuchungen zur Massstabsvergrösserung und Rührerauswahl für gerührte Flüssig/flüssig-Systeme. in 12. Seminar “Verfahrenstechnik und chemischer Apparatebau”. Berlin.1998.
(2) J. Ritter and M. Kraume, Inline Meßtechnik zur Tropfengrößenbestimmung in flüssigen Zweiphasensystemen bei hohen Dispersphasenanteilen. Chemie Ingenieur Technik, 71(7) (1999): p. 717-720.