Capturing this week's zeitgeist
Emerging challenges and progress toward digital transformation have increased the prevalence of industrial automation and have actually accelerated our way toward industrial autonomy and the key promise of Industry 4.0. The rise of smart manufacturing—in which digital enabling technologies are applied to production and manufacturing, allowing self-learning, self-adapting, autonomous operations—has made the pursuit of industrial autonomy possible. The confluence of these elements invites the opportunity to realize the transition from industrial automation to industrial autonomy, where systems can operate and adapt to change on their own. The implementation of industrial autonomy projects is starting to gather pace, with 51% of the manufacturers surveyed now scaling deployment across multiple facilities and business functions and another 19% reporting they have full deployment in at least one facility or business function.
From Martina Špittová in “AI Keeps Assembly Conveyor Rolling”
This is actually changing the perception of the maintenance profession itself. Maintenance employees are no longer just dexterous and skillful technicians and mechanics. They are also specialists who design and develop predictive maintenance methods.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
SKF uses cloud to offer new business models
In production environments, there’s an alternative to owning resources and outsourcing: performance-based contracts. At SKF, for example, customers pay to use assets and benefit from guaranteed uptime. Effective delivery of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) business models depends on data collection and processing. On top of that, MindSphere, the leading industrial IoT as a service solution, as part of the Xcelerator portfolio brings quite a few more advantages.
The advantage of so-called Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) business models is that companies pay for only what they use. Increasingly, XaaS is being extended to production assets. An example can be found with SKF, a manufacturer of, among others, rotating equipment like bearings. The idea is simple; Instead of buying industrial bearings – whether for conveyor belts, pumps, crushers, paper machines, steel or pulp mills and railway bogies – SKF’s customers pay for uninterrupted rotation services. Under SKF’s Rotating Equipment Performance service, customers pay a fixed fee, which covers the provision of bearings, seals, lubrication and condition monitoring.
AI Keeps Assembly Conveyor Rolling
The overhead conveyor is the backbone of the plant. It handles almost 1,250 cars per day during a three-shift operation. There is no back-up equipment, so failure is not an option. The conveyor’s parts are exposed to relatively high forces, causing them to wear in a relatively short time. Given that the conveyor is several meters above the floor, it is difficult to access for inspection.
ŠKODA engineers developed the Magic Eye to continuously monitor the condition of the conveyor’s moving parts without the need for maintenance personnel to climb ladders and physically do the job.
Six cameras are mounted on the conveyor frame at strategic locations to monitor the condition of various conveyor elements. Rapid assessment of each trolley’s condition is carried out as the conveyor is running. Images collected by the camera are transmitted via WiFi to a central database, where they are analyzed by artificial intelligence algorithms. The software detects wear by comparing each new image of the trolley with previously collected images. If an anomaly is detected, the software sends an alert to maintenance personnel, who can fix the trolley before it can create unexpected downtime.
How Toyota Factory Works with Zortrax 3D Printers
Toyota factories in Poland use a Zortrax M300 Plus 3D printer to make manufacturing jigs on demand. According to Toyota, investment in the 3D printing technology in automotive can pay for itself within one year. The key advantage of the Zortrax 3D printing technology, according to Toyota engineers are its agility.
“We have been using 3D printers for years now. They were already here when I came to work at Toyota four years ago.”, says Kondek. According to him, jigs that are 3D printed in automotive industry today used to be made by a separate tooling division equipped with CNC machines and other subtractive manufacturing tools. Fabrication of more demanding designs were simply outsourced to external subcontractors.
“Obviously, using such tools severely limited what we could do design-wise. Every time we thought about a new jig, we had to think twice about whether it could be fabricated or not. 3D printing in automotive sector solve this problem.”, explains Kondek. He adds that currently over 95% of the 3D printed jigs made at Toyota factory are manufactured in the LPD technology. The rest is 3D printed in other 3D printing technologies.
US Navy installs Phillips Additive Hybrid metal 3D printing solution on USS Bataan
A hybrid metal 3D printing solution from Phillips Corporation has been installed on the USS Bataan. The system combines Meltio laser metal deposition technology with a CNC control mill from Haas. The solution will be used for the manufacturing of spare parts and repairs on board the Bataan.
Phillips says that the TM-1 platform that is included in the hybrid system has been proven to operate reliably in an afloat environment aboard several aircraft carriers. Integrating additive and subtractive manufacturing technologies within one system increases efficiency and reduces waste when compared with traditional machining according to Phillips.
The US Navy advanced efforts to improve self-sufficiency for deployed ships and their crews, while reducing supply chain lead times by using AM. According to Phillips, this is the first permanent installation of a metal 3D printer aboard a ship.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering: How data can transform transportation efficiency
Automation + Robotics = Smart Shops
The metalworking industry is on the lookout for solutions that will assist in any number of areas of manufacturing. This is particularly true when it comes to ensuring efficient production while balancing skilled labor shortages. In addition, job shops of all sizes expect those solutions to be easy-to-use, intuitive systems.
Industry suppliers continue to respond to those needs by developing the next iterations of cobots, robots, automated in-process inspection systems, digital transformation — the list goes on. As a result of partnerships with job shops and fellow suppliers, companies offer smart solutions that range from the design process to the manufacture of quality, precision parts.
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Weekly mergers, partnerships, and funding events across industrial value chains
Outrider raises $73 million Series C financing to accelerate the adoption of autonomous distribution yard operations
Outrider, the pioneer in autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs, today announced it closed $73 million in Series C financing led by FM Capital. New investors include a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and NVentures, NVIDIA’s venture capital arm. Existing investors participating in the round include Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Outrider has raised $191 million in financing to date based on its technical leadership in autonomous systems for distribution yards.
Outrider will use this funding to expand its proprietary autonomy and safety technology portfolio, increase hiring domestically and internationally, and scale its yard automation solution with large customers in package shipping, retail, eCommerce, consumer packaged goods, grocery, manufacturing, and intermodal industries. Outrider’s customers, representing more than 20% of all yard trucks operating in N. America, have invested in joint product testing and pilot operations since 2019.
MacroFab Secures $42M in Growth Financing from Foundry, Edison Partners and BMW i Ventures
MacroFab, the cloud manufacturing platform for building electronics from prototype to high-scale production, with a network of more than 100 factories across North America, announced today $42M in new growth capital. The funding was led by Foundry and joined by BMW i Ventures, as well as existing investors Edison Partners and ATX Venture Partners. With this round of financing MacroFab has raised a total of $82M, enabling the company’s accelerated growth amid the ongoing transformation of global supply chains.
Sublime Systems Secures $40 Million Series A to Electrify and Scale Decarbonized Cement Production
Sublime Systems, a developer of technology to produce decarbonized cement, today announced that it has closed a $40 million Series A funding round, led by climate-tech focused fund Lowercarbon Capital with participation from existing investors including The Engine, Energy Impact Partners and others. Siam Cement Group, the largest cement producer in Southeast Asia, is also joining as a strategic investor. The company will use the new capital to ramp up production at its pilot plant, build its team, conduct product testing, and advance offtake commitments from new customers and partners.
Fairbrics raises €22M to bring to market its CO2-based polyester fiber and reduce the textile industry’s carbon footprint
The combined funds will be used to upscale Fairbrics’ technology, first in a pilot line of 100 kg/day by 2024 and later, by 2026, in a 1 ton/day demo plant. The primary aim is to fight climate change and accelerate energy intensive industries’ decarbonation by replacing fossil-based polyester with CO2-based polyester, using a circular approach that recycles CO2waste fumes from chemical plants into high value textile products. Fairbrics targets sectors employing polyester as a main material: clothing but also sports equipment, automotive and packaging.
Aerones raises $30M to scale its robot-enabled services and drive efficiencies in the $30B wind turbine maintenance market
Aerones, the Latvia-based world leader in robot-enabled wind turbine maintenance and inspection, is pleased to announce that it has secured $30 million in growth capital to scale its business globally. The capital will be used to help the Company meet surging demand in a market which is expected to reach $50 billion in value by 2028. The funding round was co-led by Lightrock, the global growth equity investor, and Haniel, the European family-owned purpose-driven investor. Further participation in the round, for the YCombinator-backed company, came from new investor Blume Equity, a climate-focused growth equity investor, and existing investors: Change Ventures, Mantas Mikuckas, Metaplanet, Pace Ventures and Future Positive Capital.
Photoneo Brightpick Group Raises Additional $19 Million to Complete $40 Million Series B
Photoneo Brightpick Group, the parent company of Photoneo, a leading provider of robotic vision sensors and intelligence software, and Brightpick, a leading provider of warehouse automation solutions for ecommerce and grocery order fulfillment, today announced it has raised an additional $19 million to complete a $40 million Series B. Taiwania Capital led this most recent round, which also included follow-on investments by prior Series B lead investors IPM Group and Alpha Intelligence Capital. Additional investors in this round include H&D Asset Management, Venture to Future Fund and Kolowrat Group. This round brings the company’s total capital raised since inception to $53 million.
Axiom Cloud Raises $7.4M Series A to Transform Commercial Refrigeration using AI
Axiom Cloud today announced its $7.4M Series A financing led by Blue Bear Capital. Following large-scale rollouts with major North American grocery chains and cold storage warehouse operators, Axiom raised its Series A to prepare for its next phase of growth. Axiom will use the funding to scale its software, operations, and sales teams to meet accelerating market demand for its refrigeration software. In total, Axiom Cloud has raised approximately $11.6M since its inception in 2020.
Stell: Announcing Our Preseed Raise
Stell raised an oversubscribed $3.1M round led by Wischoff Ventures and Third Prime VC. This capital will help us scale our team, build out the Stell product, and work with our first design partners and customers. Thank you to the rest of our investors as well: Picks & Shovels VC, Banter Capital, Rolling Fun, and our amazing team of angel investors.
At Stell, we believe in the power of small and medium business owners to meet the high demand for specialized and critical parts for American defense and space projects. Aerospace systems have been built in the small machine shops in every town across America for the last 50 years, and we want to serve and reinvigorate this ecosystem. American livelihoods and spirit depend upon this diverse group of small businesses - not on a small group of select companies in Silicon Valley.