Forcen raises $500,000 to give machines human-level sense of touch

Surgical Robotics

Toronto-based Forcen, which has developed a force-sensing film for medical and aerospace industries, successfully closed a $500,000 seed round. The financing was led by NorthSpring Capital Partners and included a syndicate of angel investors from Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN) and Angel One.

“This will allow us to accelerate our existing contracts and take on more major industrial customers.”

Forcen has also received contributions from The Creative Destruction Lab, Ryerson Biomedical Zone, Ontario Brain Institute, Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, and the University of Toronto’s Health Innovation Hub and Hatchery incubators. The company, formerly SensOR Medical Labs, has also received support from the Industrial Research Assistance Program, Ontario Centres of Excellence, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

“This funding came at the perfect time,” said Robert Brooks, CEO of Forcen. “We attracted more industry interest than we could keep up with and were starting to have to quote customers several months lead time. The investment will be used to add more equipment and hire additional technical staff.”

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According to the University of Toronto, medical error is now the third leading cause of death, after cancer and heart disease, affects 1.3 million people each year and kills 270,000 in Canada and the US alone. Twelve percent of these errors are caused by applying too much or too little force during surgical procedures.

Forcen has developed a technology called ForceFilm, a thin yet robust force-sensing film that can be laminated onto any part or assembly to give a machine a human-level sense of touch. The product is used in the medical device, surgical robotics, industrial robotics, and aerospace and defense industries. Forcen was founded in 2015 by Brooks, who won the Canadian national James Dyson Award for co-developing ForceFilm.

“This will allow us to accelerate our existing contracts and take on more major industrial customers,” Brooks said. “Secondly, we’ll be preparing the force-sensing film technology for large scale production so that we’re prepared to keep up with our customers’ production needs.”

The company is currently being incubated in Ryerson University’s Biomedical Zone, which aims to help early-stage health technology companies validate their need-based solutions directly in the hospital setting. It has also worked with the University of Toronto’s Health Innovation Hub.

“We are thrilled to be investing in Forcen,” said Brian Hunter, president of NorthSpring Capital. “Forcen has a large market opportunity in both the medical and the industrial sectors. They are first movers in the force-sensing space and are positioned with solid IP and [a] uniquely experienced team. Adoption of force-sensing technology in minimally invasive surgery can reduce medical error which is the third leading cause of death.”

Image courtesy U.S. Air Force

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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