SBIR-STTR-Success: Hysitron, Inc.
In the early 1990s, “nano” wasn’t exactly a ubiquitous term. But that was exactly what Hysitron CEO and Co-Founder Thomas Wyrobek and his father were interested in, specifically in developing solutions to measure mechanical properties of materials at the nanoscale. The company got its start in 1992, and shortly thereafter answered an Army SBIR solicitation that was seeking a micromechanical testing instrument that could be used to test and analyze surfaces that were too small for conventional imaging techniques.
Hysitron got to work on developing the solution for these extreme applications. However, the father and son team soon discovered that there was a huge unfulfilled need within the commercial marketplace as well.
“People needed to measure things like glass coatings, bit drives, even razorblades; there was just no way to measure these coatings, and people were willing to invest in this,” explains Wyrobek. “We got to Phase III because there were customers waiting for this; including the Army and the Department of Energy.”
DOE continued to provide critical funding through its SBIR program, and the company soon partnered with Gillette, which uses its nanoscale technology for quality testing of its razorblades. A lucrative acquisition deal with Bruker soon followed, adding Hysitron’s innovative nanomechanical testing instruments to Bruker’s existing portfolio of atomic force microscopes (AFMs), surface profilometers, and tribology and mechanical testing systems.