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SBIR Success Story: High Precision Devices, Inc. (HPD)

1668 Valtec Lane, Suite C
Boulder, CO80301

Contact: William Hollander
E-mail: bhollander [at] (bhollander[at]formfactor[dot]com) 
Web Site:

Project Title:  Kilopixel array cryostat for multi-kilogram transition edge sensor (TES) arrays

NIST Award(s):  SB1341-09-CN-0064

Technology Developed: HPD has developed, in conjunction with NIST and funded in part by an SBIR grant, a millikelvin cryogenic chamber (cryostat) for use with kilopixel arrays of TES sensors. These cryostats use a mechanical cryocooler to reach a temperature of 3K, 3He sorption cooling to reach 300 mK, and an adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator (ADR) to reach a base temperature of about 23 mK. The subject of this SBIR is the development and integration of these three cooling technologies plus the structure to support a large kilopixel array camera.

Key Words: Helium sorption refrigerator, adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator, ADR, millikelvin cryostat, cryocooler, 3He cooler, kilopixel array, transition edge sensor, TES

Uses of Technology/Products/Service: The cryostats use a linked series of cryogenic cooling techniques to reach a base temperature of about 23 mK (nearly absolute zero). These cryostats are used by researchers whose work is the development and deployment of superconducting devices used in:

  • Advanced material science using x-ray spectroscopy.
  • Quantum information (quantum computer development).
  • Astrophysics research.

The overall architecture and cooling methods employed in these cryostats represent a novel combination of known techniques. They provide liquid-cryogen-free refrigeration, easy transportability, and ease of use. The commercial availability of these HPD cryostats allows researchers to concentrate on the development and deployment of their cutting-edge sensors instead of on the creation of the underlying platform for that work.

Benefit to Company: Our participation in the SBIR program has been a major factor in accelerating HPD’s growth and the expansion of our cryogenics product family, now far beyond the scope of the initial SBIR grant. In 2009, the year of our first SBIR grant, our total sales were only $2.3M and the portion of our sales related to cryogenic instruments was roughly half of that. By contrast, in 2015 we had total sales of $5.6M, with our cryostats and other cryogenic instruments representing $3.5M. This equates to growth of total sales of 16% annually, and growth of our cryogenic sales of 23% annually, spurred by our SBIR participation. With our current backlog of $4.5M indicating market acceptance we see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future.
In that span of time HPD has gone from a minor participant in this market to an important player, with new additions to our product family being introduced and accepted by the market at a rapid pace. We have increased our technical depth and breadth dramatically through collaborations with cutting-edge research groups worldwide, and our successful delivery of equipment to prestigious government, university, and private labs. Also, HPD has licensed some technologies through technology transfers for inclusion in our products.

Funding for this expansion has come primarily from our customers, with strategic help from SBIR grants and HPD internal R&D funds.

How Product was Commercialized: We have approached the commercialization of our cryogenic instruments through personal contacts and referrals from our initial customers. This has led to sales to other scientific institutions that were involved in similar research. HPD has also exhibited at major scientific conferences (APS, ASC, LTD, CE) and advertised in scientific journals. We have also established sales representative relationships with organizations that represent our products in Europe, Asia, and South America.

Other Comments Related to Company’s Success Story: HPD occupies 10,000 square feet and employs more than 25 people in science and engineering, manufacturing operations (planning, purchasing, precision machining, assembly and testing), finance and administration, and sales. We have used the success of our cryogenic instrument product family as a model for developing new products in other technology areas. We have successfully won additional SBIR grants from NIST and other agencies, allowing us to develop and begin commercialization of new product families, including the area of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tissue phantoms.

Technology’s Impact on Company’s Growth: Strategic, Tactical

Past R&D and/or Sales from this Project: Total sales directly related to the NIST SBIR SB1341-09-CN-0064 are about $1.4M to date after the initial SBIR funds ($300K) were used for product R&D.

Estimated Future Annual R&D and/or Sales from this Project: The product resulting from this SBIR R&D funding is projected to generate about $2M in sales annually for the next few years or more. No further SBIR funding has been sought for this specific product.

Created July 11, 2018, Updated November 22, 2023