Cakes, pies and pastries sliced with... ultrasound!
February 05, 2007— Saguenay, Quebec
First published February 5, 2007; Revised July 2013
Originally founded by the Martel brothers of Saint-Georges de Beauce, Matiss Inc. is a dynamic company that has developed leading-edge technology for the high-speed slicing of food products.
Pierre and Jacques Martel say they always knew that one day they would become businessmen. In 1995, after completing their studies and working in the family business for several years, the brothers decided to launch a company that would be entirely devoted to industrial automation. Matiss Inc. was born.
Over the years, the brothers refined their techniques and offered their design, manufacturing and integration services for automated equipment in a variety of areas, including lumber, furniture, textiles and agro-food. Always on the lookout for new ideas, the brothers became curious about ultrasound technology. They wondered if these high-frequency vibrations—applied to food cutting—could offer faster and more precise slicing while avoiding the problem of food sticking to the blade. A new adventure began.
At first, the firm created prototypes, but they didn't work. "We looked everywhere, but we couldn't find the technological information we needed. We knew that our competitors wouldn't help us, and neither would our suppliers, so we had to do the development ourselves," explained Pierre Martel.
The brothers approached Pierre Morissette, an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), who suggested conducting a search on information and patents. The results were encouraging: a need existed for the technology Matiss Inc. wanted to develop, and there was strong international market potential. NRC-IRAP recognized that the Martel brothers' idea was indeed innovative and presented a very exciting technical challenge. But they were a long way from success.
Morissette put the firm in contact with Université de Sherbrooke and Université Laval in order to optimize the process and solve various technical problems, particularly premature wear on the blade and incorrect frequency calibration. Visits to France and England, arranged and supported in part by NRC-IRAP, provided an opportunity for engineers at Matiss Inc. to meet with ultrasound specialists who could provide them with the latest information and allow them to push the limits of this technology even further.
As new results came to light, the Martel brothers began to develop equipment that was even more versatile and efficient. With food no longer sticking to the blades, it became possible to cut even sticky and delicate products without having to stop to clean the blades, which significantly increased production capacity. From 2002 to 2005, the project allowed Matiss Inc. to gain knowledge, skills and some very valuable tools, including a structured working procedure, invaluable scientific and business contacts, and information on patents and intellectual property.
In 2007, Pierre Martel sold his shares to Jacques and left the company. Jacques remains keen to maintain his firm’s technological lead and meet the needs of its numerous international customers even more effectively.
Today, with over 50 employees, and sales for the Ultrasound Cutting Division projected to go from $2 million in 2012 to $2,3 million next year, Matiss Inc. is an established world leader in food cutting—and NRC-IRAP contributed to this remarkable performance. "With the help of NRC-IRAP, we were able to push the limits of the technology," said Pierre Martel. "It's a great program that asks the right questions and provides financial support as well."
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