Capturing this week's zeitgeist
On the journey to AI adoption, where are manufacturers?
- Fictiv’s 2023 State of Manufacturing Report asserts 97% of leaders expect AI to impact product development and manufacturing with 85% having plans to or already have adopted AI technologies.
- Augury’s inaugural The State of Production Health 2023 proclaims production health is attracting as much AI investment as the supply chain
The journey often starts with picking a preferred cloud vendor. Amongst public customer case studies Microsoft leads the way with about 500 manufacturing clients pulling ahead of AWS’s 350, Google’s 150, and Oracle’s 80.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
🧠 Toyota Research Institute Unveils New Generative AI Technique for Vehicle Design
Toyota Research Institute (TRI) today unveiled a generative artificial intelligence (AI) technique to amplify vehicle designers. Currently, designers can leverage publicly available text-to-image generative AI tools as an early step in their creative process. With TRI’s new technique, designers can add initial design sketches and engineering constraints into this process, cutting down the iterations needed to reconcile design and engineering considerations.
TRI researchers released two papers describing how the technique incorporates precise engineering constraints into the design process. Constraints like drag (which affects fuel efficiency) and chassis dimensions like ride height and cabin dimensions (which affect handling, ergonomics, and safety) can now be implicitly incorporated into the generative AI process. The team tied principles from optimization theory, used extensively for computer-aided engineering, to text-to-image-based generative AI. The resulting algorithm allows the designer to optimize engineering constraints while maintaining their text-based stylistic prompts to the generative AI process.
⛓️ ASML says decoupling chip supply chain is practically impossible
“We do not believe in ASML that decoupling is possible. We believe this will be extremely difficult and extremely expensive,” Fouquet told Nikkei at the company’s headquarters. “It’s a matter of time until people realize that the only way to be successful in semiconductors is through cooperation.” The secret to ASML’s success, according to Fouquet, is its longtime collaboration with critical global suppliers such as Zeiss and Cymer and the support from its top chipmaking customers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Intel.
The bulk of ASML’s production, meanwhile, is done in one place, its headquarters, and Fouquet said it will likely keep the majority – about 80% to 90% – of its production and integration there until at least 2026. “It’s very important for us to keep R&D and manufacturing together,” the senior executive said.
Apera AI & Mitsubishi Electric Automation Making Robotic Vision Simple
🦾 Inside sewts’ textile-handling robots
Traditionally, clothing has been a challenge for robots to handle because of its malleability. Currently, available software systems and conventional image processing typically have limits when it comes to easily deformable material, limiting the abilities of commercially available robots and gripping systems.
VELUM, sewts’ robotic system, is able to analyze dimensionally unstable materials like textiles and handle them. This means VELUM can feed towels and similar linen made of terry cloth easily and without creases into existing folding machines.
sewts developed AI software to process the data supplied by the cameras. This software uses features like the course of the seam and the relative position of seams to analyze the topology of the textiles. The program classifies these features according to textile type and class, and then translates these findings into robot commands. The company uses Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) and classical image processing to process the data, including IDS peak, a software development kit from IDS.
📊 Data pools as the foundation for the smart buildings of the future
Today’s digital building technology generates a huge amount of data. So far, however, this data has only been used to a limited extent, primarily within hierarchical automation systems. Data however is key to the new generation of modern buildings, making them climate-neutral, energy- and resource-efficient, and at some point autonomous and self-maintaining.
More straightforward is the use of digital solutions for building management by planners, developers, owners, and operators of new buildings. The creation of a building twin must be defined and implemented as a BIM goal. At the heart of it is a Common Data Environment (CDE), a central digital repository where all relevant information about a building can be stored and shared already in the project phase. CDE is a part of the BIM process and enables collaboration and information exchange between the different stakeholders of the construction project.
Beyond the design and construction phases, a CDE can also in the operation phase help make building maintenance more effective by providing easy access to essential information about the building and its technical systems. If information about equipment, sensors, their location in the building, and all other relevant components is collected in a machine-readable form from the beginning of the lifecycle and updated continuously, building management tools can access this data directly during the operations phase, thus avoiding additional effort. The exact goal is to collect data without additional effort. To achieve this, in the future engineering and commissioning tools must automatically store their results in the common twin, making reengineering obsolete.
📊 Accelerating Innovation at JetBlue Using Databricks
The role of data and in particular analytics, AI and ML is key for airlines to provide a seamless experience for customers while maintaining efficient operations for optimum business goals. For a single flight, for example, from New York to London, hundreds of decisions have to be made based on factors encompassing customers, flight crews, aircraft sensors, live weather and live air traffic control (ATC) data. A large disruption such as a brutal winter storm can impact thousands of flights across the U.S. Therefore it is vital for airlines to depend on real-time data and AI & ML to make proactive real time decisions.
JetBlue has sped AI and ML deployments across a wide range of use cases spanning four lines of business, each with its own AI and ML team. The following are the fundamental functions of the business lines:
- Commercial Data Science (CDS) - Revenue growth
- Operations Data Science (ODS) - Cost reduction
- AI & ML engineering – Go-to-market product deployment optimization
- Business Intelligence – Reporting enterprise scaling and support
Each business line supports multiple strategic products that are prioritized regularly by JetBlue leadership to establish KPIs that lead to effective strategic outcomes.
Increase Capacity with Automated Night Shifts
🚀🏭 SpaceX successfully launches world’s first 'space factory'
In 2019, pharma giant Merck revealed that an experiment on the International Space Station had shown how to make its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda more stable. That meant it could now be administered via a shot rather than through an IV infusion. The key to the discovery was the fact that particles behave differently when freed from the force of gravity — seeing how its drug crystalized in microgravity helped Merck figure out how to tweak its manufacturing process on Earth to produce the more stable version.
During the satellite’s first week in space, Varda will focus on testing its systems to make sure everything works as hoped. The second week will be dedicated to heating and cooling the old HIV-AIDS drug ritonavir repeatedly to study how its particles crystalize in microgravity. After about a month in space, Varda will attempt to bring its first space factory back to Earth, sending it through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds and then using a parachute system to safely land at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range.
“Pharmaceuticals are the most valuable chemicals per unit mass,” Bruey told CNN. “And they also have a large market on Earth.”
Major factory investments (>$1B USD) and line commissions
🏭🇩🇪 Intel, German Government Agree on Increased Scope for Wafer Fabrication Site in Magdeburg
Intel and the German federal government have signed a revised letter of intent for Intel’s planned leading-edge wafer fabrication site in Magdeburg, the capital of Saxony-Anhalt state in Germany. The agreement encompasses Intel’s expanded investment in the site, now expected to be more than 30 billion euros for two first-of-a-kind semiconductor facilities (also known as “fabs”) in Europe, along with increased government support that includes incentives, reflecting the expanded scope and change in economic conditions since the site was first announced.
🏭🇺🇸 SK On-Ford JV BlueOval SK secures up to USD 9.2 billion of DOE Loan Conditional Commitment
SK On, a leading electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturer, announced on June 23 (KST) its joint venture with American auto giant Ford Motor Company, BlueOval SK was offered a conditional commitment for a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) of up to USD 9.2 billion.
BlueOval SK, which was officially launched last July, will use the funds from the ATVM loan program for the construction of three battery plants – one in Tennessee and two in Kentucky. Once they become operational from 2025, the three plants are projected to have combined production capacity of more than 120 gigawatt hours (GWh), which is enough to power about 1.2 million* electric vehicles annually.
🏭🇮🇳 Micron confirms up to $825 million investment in India chip facility
U.S. memory chip firm Micron Technology, Inc (MU.O) said on Thursday it would invest up to $825 million in a new chip assembly and test facility in Gujarat, India, its first factory in the country. Micron said that with support from the Indian central government and from the state of Gujarat, the total investment in the facility will be $2.75 billion. Of that total, 50% will come from the Indian central government and 20% from the state of Gujarat.
🏭🇺🇸 VSK Energy to Invest Up to $1.5 Billion to Scale Vertically Integrated Production of American-Made Solar
Vikram Solar, Phalanx Impact Partners, and Das & Co. today announced they have formed a new U.S. joint venture and majority U.S.-owned and operated company – VSK Energy LLC (“VSK”) – with plans to invest up to $1.5 billion to develop a vertically integrated solar manufacturing operation in the United States. With two planned projects, VSK extends Vikram Solar’s 17 years of solar manufacturing experience to the United States with financial support from sustainability-focused private equity firm Phalanx Impact Partners and Das & Co.’s extensive network and expertise in the solar industry in the United States, India, and emerging markets.
The first phase of the investment consists of a $250 million investment to develop an American solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing facility in a recently completed building at 76 Commerce Center in Brighton, Colorado, which is owned by Mortenson Properties and Hyde Development. The new factory is expected to create over 900 direct jobs with an average salary of more than $70,000 and over 200 construction jobs. VSK Energy expects the facility to commence operations in 2024 with an initial capacity of 2 Gigawatts (GW) in solar PV modules and planned expansion of up to 4 GW.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
🧠⛏️ KoBold Metals Is Silicon Valley’s Newest Unicorn
Berkeley, Calif.-based KoBold Metals, which explores for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt using artificial intelligence, is raising around $200 million in a fundraising round, said co-founder and Chief Executive Kurt House. The capital injection values the company at more than $1 billion, he said. Part of that will be used to help it develop copper reserves it recently acquired in Zambia. A division of T. Rowe Price that manages client money led the round.
KoBold hadn’t planned on raising money so soon after its fundraising round last year, but stepped up plans in light of its copper project in Zambia. It also plans to use the fundraising proceeds for nickel and lithium exploration projects and software and hardware research and development, House said.
Limble Raises $58M Series B Funding and a $450M Valuation, Accelerating Growth
Limble has raised $58 million in Series B funding, bringing our total valuation to $450M to accelerate our growth and realize that vision. This funding, led by the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs, will help us build more industry-disrupting solutions and insights that will lay the groundwork for the future of EAM and CMMS platforms.
Fero Labs Secures $15M to Reduce Manufacturing Emissions with AI
Fero Labs, an AI-driven manufacturing process optimization software company, today announced the close of a $15 million growth round led by Climate Investment (‘CI’, formerly OGCI Climate Investments), with additional participation from investors Blackhorn Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, and DI Technology. This round brings Fero Labs’ total funding to date to $30 million. Fero Labs is unique in the industrial space for using white-box AI, which reveals the reasoning behind its predictions. Unlike the black-box AI popularly seen in tools like ChatGPT, Fero Labs makes it possible for users to know if they can trust the results.
🗜️🏭 DTE Secures $10M Funding Anchored by Industry Leader Novelis and the EIC Fund
DTE (www.dte.ai), a leading innovator in decision support for the metals production and manufacturing industry, is pleased to announce the successful completion of a $10 million Series A2 round to further accelerate DTE’s innovation and expand its reach. The raise includes a distinguished group of investors, with participation by aluminum industry leader Novelis, venture capital firm Metaplanet and the European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund, along with existing investors Chrysalix Venture Capital and Brunnur Ventures.
DTE’s first-in-industry, in-line elemental analysis technology complements and replaces current slow, expensive, and manual methods for process and quality control. Our proprietary LP-LIBS™ sensor technology is uniquely able to deliver reference-grade elemental analysis directly from high-temperature liquid metals in less than 60 seconds from sampling. This breakthrough capability provides enhanced process control and decision support, empowering manufacturers and metals producers with unprecedented insights. From the plant floor to corporate management, our mission is to unlock our customers’ potential to deliver greener, safer, and more efficient products.
Hyfé Raises $9 Million to Create Future Feedstocks for Biomanufacturing
Hyfé, a company transforming food processing wastewater into feedstocks for biomanufacturing and clean water, today announced an oversubscribed $9 million seed investment led by Synthesis Capital. Additional participating investors include The Engine, Refactor Capital, Supply Change Capital, Overwater Ventures, X Factor Ventures and Alumni Ventures. The company’s funding to date is $11 million, which includes an oversubscribed pre-seed round led by The Engine in April 2022. Hyfé will use the new capital to advance select commercial partnerships, double its employee headcount, and progress towards pilot scale technology demonstration. Rosie Wardle, co-founder and partner at Synthesis Capital, will also join the company’s Board of Directors.
🏗️ Augmenta Raises US$11.75 Million in Seed Extension to Disrupt the Construction Industry Through Automated Building Design
Augmenta, the company automating building design for the construction industry, today announced it has raised US$11.75 million in a seed extension round that will be used to commercialize the company’s groundbreaking design platform for the construction industry. The investment was led by Eclipse with participation from Hazelview Ventures, BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund, and Suffolk Technologies. The investment brings Augmenta’s total funds raised to date to US$15.85 million.
Augmenta is on track to commercialize the Electrical System Design (ESD) module of its groundbreaking Augmenta Construction Platform (ACP) in Q1 2024. The ESD module generates fully constructible, code-compliant designs of electrical raceway routing for electrical engineers and contractors. The company is also planning to expand into adjacent markets with the development of plumbing and mechanical modules.
🏗️ Design Automation Platform Hypar Raises $5.5M Series A Funding to Accelerate Design and Construction Workflows
Hypar, the world’s first cloud-based design automation platform for buildings, is announcing a $5.5 million Series A round led by Brick & Mortar Ventures with participation from Building Ventures. With support for every phase of project realization, Hypar delivers the world’s building expertise to realize better buildings and help teams make better decisions, faster.
🚀 Apex Raises $16M in Series A Funding and Reveals Customers Flying on its First Aries Satellite Bus
Apex, the Los Angeles-based spacecraft mass manufacturing company, announced its Series A fundraising round and customers flying on its first Aries satellite bus.
Apex’s $16M Series A funding round, which brings the company’s total funding to over $27M, was led by venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Shield Capital. Apex will use the additional funding to open a new, 50,000 sq ft production facility in Los Angeles dedicated to serial bus manufacturing. This investment and the new factory will allow the company to expand its production rate and further reduce lead times for its customers.
Accenture Completes Acquisition of Flutura
Accenture (NYSE ACN) has completed its acquisition of Flutura, an industrial artificial intelligence (AI) company, headquartered in Bangalore, India. Terms of the transaction, which Accenture announced on March 21, 2023, were not disclosed. Flutura strengthens Accenture’s industrial AI services for clients in the energy, chemicals, metals, mining, and pharmaceutical industries.
🧑🏭 IFS Acquires Poka
IFS announces it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Poka, Inc. (Poka) the market leading Quebec based provider of a connected worker platform. Poka enables factory and field workers to be more efficient across all aspects of their jobs from training and development to troubleshooting. This capability enables businesses to measure productivity across machinery and operators globally and therefore provides a clear insight into profitability. Poka also provides actionable insights for companies to stay compliant and provide safer working conditions as part of their ESG goals.
The acquisition puts IFS at the nexus of this trend as it now combines its ERP / FSM / EAM technology with Poka and extends its value all the way to the actual user empowering them at every step.
🧠🦾 Intrinsic and Siemens collaborate to accelerate the integration of AI-based robotics and automation technology
Intrinsic, an Alphabet company, and Siemens have teamed up to explore integrations and interfaces between Intrinsic’s robotics software, which is designed for easy use of AI-based capabilities, and Siemens Digital Industries with their open and interoperable portfolio for automating and operating industrial production.
Currently, the development and runtime environments for AI-based robotics and automation components differ significantly in their development paradigms and make integration cumbersome. For example, deploying advanced robotic capabilities such as pose estimation, robot manipulation or automated path planning are complex processes that typically require teams of domain experts to operationalize. The two companies intend to investigate new methods to seamlessly bridge the gaps between robotics, automation engineering and IT development.