When Chris Arrasmith moved back to Bozeman, Montana to start a company with his former engineering professor, he wanted to help researchers solve big medical problems, like dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, the pair started building mirrors.
Arrasmith founded Revibro Optics in 2015 with David Dickensheets. Their work focuses on optical instruments with mirrors, like microscopes and telescopes. The team at Revibro manufacturers a unique, flexible mirror that can fit into many of these optical systems. Think of this mirror as the kind of lens you have in your point-and-shoot camera. The function of that lens is to focus on whatever you want to photograph, but there’s a noticeable delay when you use the autofocus feature as the mechanical parts of the camera work to make the image clear.
What Arrasmith’s team found was astonishing. By bending the mirror with an electrical signal, taking out the mechanical element, you can focus on something much more quickly. And those fractions of a second really make a difference.
These mirrors are used in equipment to study worldwide diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Researchers are looking at living brain tissue and neurons firing through microscopes, so if the lens the researchers are using to watch these organisms takes too long to focus, they miss these critical interactions.
“It’s just like in binoculars where you turn the screw to focus on something far away, but this mirror is doing that action way faster,” says Arrasmith. “Two things are important here. The first is improving the speed these experiments can be done so you get more usable data, and the second is capturing the response of these brain cell interactions in one frame so you can see how they react to stimuli.”
He’ll be traveling to Munich, Germany in late June to show off his new mirrors, along with 10 other tech companies from Montana. They are hoping to expand their market overseas by showcasing their products to customers from over 70 countries at the Laser World of Photonics.
“We’re also looking at how we can improve and to what extent,” says Arrasmith. “We’ll be looking at what aspects of our products they like, what companies are out there and what they’re looking for.”
Arrasmith is no stranger to working in biomedical engineering. During his master’s work at Montana State University, he helped design and build a laser microscope used in skin cancer detection. That work had a lasting impact.
Initially, Arrasmith moved to Jackson, WY to pursue his career as an engineer after graduating from MSU. But the quality of life, the resources that the university provides and the supportive culture of Montanans were clear deciding factors in choosing to keep their business in Bozeman.
“Every tech company that can start in Montana and be maintained in Montana is in Montana’s interest. Perhaps [the] biggest impact locally, changing the story from we make wheat to we make wheat and a bunch of cool science stuff.”