Funding the Autonomous Supply Chain


Last month, we discussed how Ford was pulled the plug on their autonomous driving investment in Argo AI but companies with narrower focus of their autonomy, like Fox Robotics (autonomous forklifts), continue to progress. This week, over a hundred million of funding was reported across the supply chain for autonomous solutions. From the ship yard to the warehouse: ISEE (yard trucks), Pickle Robots (truck unloading), Attabotics (automated fulfillment), and AMFG (additive manufacturing automation software) all announced funding events.

In the future, Exponential Industry will do a deep dive on the autonomous supply chain ecosystem. For now, Exponential Industry is building some machine learning solutions of its own as it heads into its third year.

Assembly Line

Capturing this week's trending industry 4.0 and emerging industrial technology media

Reality Show: X-ray Vision Can See Through Metal

📅 Date:

✍️ Authors: Josh Roth, Jack Hsu

🔖 Topics: Augmented Reality, Visual Inspection, Digital Twin, Pose Estimation

🏭 Vertical: Aerospace

🏢 Organizations: Boeing, Unity, Simon Fraser University

A typical aircraft maintenance inspection involves maintenance technicians and engineers walking around an aircraft recording new defects and damage with a pencil in a notebook. Locations are often described in language like ‘3 inches from the left side of the window.’ The inspection can often take hours or days. But what if you could hold a digital device and see locations of all previous damage and repairs highlighted in 3D?

Read more at Innovation Quarterly

Why The U.S. Fell Behind In Phone Manufacturing

The setup matrix for production optimization

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🔖 Topics: Production Planning

A setup matrix is a powerful tool for detailed optimization of production for recurring lots of similar or identical products. The challenge is to determine the transition times from one product to the next with sufficient precision and to provide the data for a planning system.

Read more at OEE AI Blog

Using AI to increase asset utilization and production uptime for manufacturers

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🔖 Topics: Manufacturing Analytics

🏢 Organizations: Google, Litmus

Google Cloud created purpose-built tools and solutions to organize manufacturing data, make it accessible and useful, and help manufacturers to quickly take significant steps on this journey by reducing the time to value. In this post, we will explore a practical example of how manufacturers can use Google Cloud manufacturing solutions to train, deploy and extract value from ML-enabled capabilities to predict asset utilization and maintenance needs. The first step to a successful machine learning project is to unify necessary data in a common repository. For this, we will use Manufacturing Connect, the factory edge platform co-developed with Litmus, to connect to manufacturing assets and stream the asset telemetries to Pub/Sub.

The following scenario is based on a hypothetical company, Cymbal Materials. This company is a factitious discrete manufacturing company that runs 50+ factories in 10+ countries. 90% of Cymbal Materials manufacturing processes involve milling, which are accomplished using industrial computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines. Although their factories implement routine maintenance checklists, there are unplanned and unknown failures that happen occasionally. However, many of the Cymbal Materials factory workers lack the experience to identify and troubleshoot failures due to labor shortage and high turnover rate in their factories. Hence, Cymbal Materials is working with Google Cloud to build a machine learning model that can identify and analyze failures on top of Manufacturing Connect, Manufacturing Data Engine, and Vertex AI.

Read more at Google Cloud Blog

Using simulation technologies to craft material handling in a facility

Comau Leverages Advanced Automation to Deliver Faster Time-to-Market and Enhanced Flexibility for the New Alfa Romeo Tonale

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Gordon Brown

🏭 Vertical: Automotive

🏢 Organizations: Comau, Alfa Romeo

As part of Comau’s lean manufacturing approach, the automated and semi-automated production solution is based on the proprietary ComauFlex technology, nicknamed Butterfly due to its impressive agility and use of suspended robots. This set-up allows Alfa Romeo to change or modify a specific vehicle model by adjusting the robot tooling, not the arrangement of the robots themselves. In addition to protecting the scalability of the customer’s initial investment, the solution is designed to enable the introduction of new models in the future for a fraction of the initial expenditure. Indeed, the entire system features 468 welding robots, 148 of which are completely new and 320 taken from existing lines. Comau utilized advanced simulation tools during the entire development period, guaranteeing the best quality product and throughput.

Read more at i40 Today

Huge Improvements for Small Vials

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🏢 Organizations: Garvey

Serum vials used in the pharmaceutical industry may be tiny, but their impact on public health is astronomically enormous. We have previously discussed COVID vaccine vials in the cold chain, and that is just one example. Vial damage, contamination, and bottlenecks on the line are common problems that are only exacerbated as they get smaller in size.

In this post, we will chat a little about various applications for vials, and some considerations pharmaceutical companies must make. We will then discuss how Garvey’s Infinity™ Rx Accumulation Table eliminates many issues companies face when working with vials as small as 1.5 mL.

Read more at Garvey Blog

Plastic Bottles Defect Inspection Using Omron FH Vision System with AI

Super-hot salt could be coming to a battery near you

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Casey Crownhart

🏢 Organizations: Ambri

Over decades of development and scaling, lithium-ion batteries have gotten cheaper, and production capacity has exploded, with new battery Gigafactories popping up all around the world seemingly every other week.

But there are a few mismatches between lithium-ion’s strengths and what’s needed in batteries used for stationary energy storage.

  • Price: Grid-scale storage needs to be dirt-cheap to help renewables be affordable. Last year, the US Department of Energy set a goal of reducing costs by 90% by 2030. Lithium-ion batteries have gotten cheaper over the years, but gains may be plateauing, especially with possible material shortages expected.
  • Size: Lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of power into a small space. But while battery size is important for things like phones and cars, it’s not so crucial for grid-scale energy storage. Compromising on energy density for stationary applications could mean lower cost.
  • Lifetime: Industrial plants often put in equipment that, when maintained, lasts for decades. Lithium-ion batteries typically need to be replaced every 5-10 years, which can be pricey.

Read more at MIT Technology Review

Capital Expenditure

Tracking this week's major mergers, partnerships, and funding events in manufacturing and supply chain

ISEE, the first company to achieve fully-autonomous operations with their self-driving yard trucks, raises $40 million in Series B.

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: ISEE, Founders Fund, Maersk

Self-driving technology company, ISEE, has raised $40M in a Series B funding round led by Founders Fund, that included Maersk Growth, Eniac Ventures, New Legacy and other new and existing investors. This brings ISEE’s total funding to $70 million since the company was spun out of MIT in 2017.

With ISEE’s technology, customers can achieve 30% IRR, while simultaneously benefiting from a sophisticated tech stack that enables them to manage their operations with unprecedented efficiency. ISEE is winning too: revenue has grown by more than 20x in the past 12 months alone. Co-founder, President & COO Debbie Yu feels this is only the beginning, “With this new funding and strong customer pipeline, we’re excited to scale our operations and accelerate our business growth so that we can bring our self-driving technology to more customers.”

Read more at Businesswire

Pickle Robots Are Unloading Trucks in Southern California to Expedite Supply Chain Processing and Ease Labor Challenges

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Pickle Robot, Ranpak

Pickle Robot Company (“Pickle Robot”), a pioneer in AI-enabled robotic automation systems that unload trucks, today announced it has live pilot implementations unloading tens of thousands of packages per month at customer sites in the greater Los Angeles area, and has raised $26 million in series A funding led by Ranpak, JS Capital, Schusterman Family Investments, Catapult Ventures, and Soros Capital. Additionally, Pickle Robot has added growth-oriented industry veterans to its leadership team to accelerate commercialization of the company’s flagship robotic unload systems.

Pickle will use the funding to accelerate go-to-market activities and strengthen deployment capabilities. Omar Asali, Chairman and CEO of Ranpak, has joined Pickle’s Board of Directors as part of the investment deal. Following this Series A investment round, the company has raised a total of nearly $32 million to date. Previous investors that participated in this funding round included Toyota AI Ventures, Third Kind Venture Capital, Hyperplane Ventures, BoxGroup, and Version One Ventures.

Read more at Globe Newswire

Attabotics Secures $71.7 Million USD to Revolutionize Legacy Fulfillment Centers

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Attabotics, Ontario Teachers

Attabotics, the world’s first 3D robotics supply chain company, today announced it has raised $71.7M USD in Series C-1 funding led by Export Development Canada (EDC) with participation from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’) through Teachers’ Venture Growth (TVG). The round brings Attabotics’ total funding to $165.1M USD to date and will be used to further accelerate the commercialization of its 3D robotics warehousing solution in the wake of growing post-COVID-19 demand.

Attabotics’ unique architecture maximizes the flexibility and speed of warehouse processes while reducing a retailer’s required warehouse needs by up to 85%. This reduction of space allows Attabotics customers to place warehouses closer to cities for faster delivery times. As consumer expectations continue to increase, Attabotics is helping customers to adjust to that surge while simultaneously offering a solution to ongoing warehouse labor shortages.

Read more at Businesswire

Soft Robotics Inc. secures $26M in first close of Series C led by Tyson Ventures. Marel and Johnsonville also invest and join Soft Robotics powerful syndicate.

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Soft Robotics, Tyson Foods, Marel, Johnsonville

Soft Robotics Inc. (SRI) announced today that it raised $26M in an initial Series C closing and will use the funds to expand commercial deployment of its mGripAI™ robotic picking solutions. mGripAI is an easy-to-integrate automation package that combines ultra-fast 3D vision and artificial intelligence technologies with patented and proven, IP69K-rated, soft grasping to give industrial robots the hand-eye coordination of humans. This unprecedented combination of robotic “hands,” “eyes,” and “brains” enables, for the first time, the use of high-speed industrial arms to automate bulk picking processes throughout protein, produce, dairy, baked goods, and prepared foods operations.

Soft Robotics’ Series C was led by Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), and brings new investors, Marel (AEX:MAREL) and Johnsonville, into SRI’s powerful investor syndicate. SRI reported that it closed the first $26M of an undisclosed-size round with participation from these new investors and strong participation from existing investors.

Read more at PR Newswire

AMFG Receives $8.5 Million in Funding Led by Intel Capital to Drive the Future of Fully Autonomous Manufacturing

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: AMFG, Intel, HP

AMFG Corp., a rapidly growing Manufacturing Execution System (MES) & workflow automation software for 3D printing, has secured $8.5M in funding led by Intel Capital to further catapult their spot in the new age of industrial transformation. As part of the most recent fundraise, Intel Capital investor Jennifer Ard is joining AMFG’s board of directors. With this new funding, AMFG will continue to help companies scale their additive manufacturing processes, further solidifying AMFG’s position at the forefront of the autonomous manufacturing revolution.

This financing round comes on the heels of a year of accomplishments for AMFG. These include expanding into the U.S by establishing a global headquarters in Austin, Texas, which places the company in direct contact with the region’s dramatically shifting manufacturing scene, and making strategic hires to the growing AMFG team. With this funding, AMFG will advance its vision to pioneer a path into the future of autonomous manufacturing.

Read more at AMFG

IoT and Industry 4.0: Zerynth raises a €5.3 million round led by United Ventures

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Zerynth, United Ventures

Zerynth, the Italian startup, spin-off of the University of Pisa, that supports companies in digitizing production processes and developing connected industrial products through Industrial IoT solutions, announces a €5.3 million investment round led by United Ventures, the Italian venture capital fund specializing in investments in technology startups.

The funding will support the company’s domestic and international expansion for the next three years. Resources will also be invested to hire new talent and strengthen the team to support product development and enhancement, including the introduction of new features of the Industrial IoT app leveraging the opportunities of IoT and AI technologies; finally, part of the resources will be dedicated to establishing new strategic partnerships with major players in the industrial field.

Read more at Zerynth Press Room

Lockheed Martin, Microsoft announce landmark agreement on classified cloud, advanced technologies for Department of Defense

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Partnership

🏢 Organizations: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft

Lockheed Martin is the first defense industrial base member to use Microsoft’s newest National Industrial Security Program (NISP) framework for air-gapped clouds after a year-long pilot. Work on developing the classified and unclassified cloud environments is already underway, with expectations for the project to be operational in 2023.

Microsoft’s first-of-its-kind technology will allow Lockheed Martin to dynamically scale IT demands under authorized guidance and directly operate mission workloads inside Azure Government Secret, including highly restricted special programs.

Read more at Microsoft News

Sustainable Wooden Turbine Blades for the Wind Energy Industry

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Partnership

🏭 Vertical: Wood

🏢 Organizations: Stora Enso, Voodin Blades

Stora Enso and Voodin Blade Technology GmbH have signed a partnership agreement to develop sustainable wind turbine blades from wood. Under the agreement, the two companies are committed to developing sustainable alternatives for wind turbine blades and creating a competitive and reliable supply chain. They are currently producing and installing a 20 m blade for a 0.5 MW turbine and have plans for an 80 m blade.

Read more at AZO Materials