Capturing this week's zeitgeist
Ford and CATL’s Marshall, Michigan megasite faces backlash from the community:
Not everyone wants giant projects, even in places that would seem ripe for a factory renaissance. Soon after Ford’s project was announced in February, worried residents jammed town meetings, demanding more details on what was coming. Signs popped up on roadsides that plead: “Stop the Megasite.”
At the time we were told that the additional workers would not impact the thousands of construction workers already builng the $40 billion factory. In recent days multiple sources have come forward to Arizona’s Family telling us they feel the new workers are here to replace them; or as an excuse to cut their pay. Those sources, not willing to go on camera for fear of retribution. Earlier today we reached out for comment to TSMC and to a general contractor for the project. So far neither have responded to our questions.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
Chinese scientists say supersized magnesium parts pave the way for cheaper, lighter cars
Researchers in China say they have developed supersized magnesium alloy auto parts that could significantly reduce the cost of making cars and promote lightweight vehicle designs. The scientists produced the two giant parts – a car body and a battery box cover – from a single mould in one casting. Each part measures over 2.2 square metres (23.7 sq ft) – the first of their size to be made from magnesium alloy, according to a news release from the National Engineering Research Centre for Magnesium Alloys (CCMg) at Chongqing University on June 27.
Chongqing Millison Technologies provided the die casting system used for processing, while Boao Aluminium Manufacturing has experience in developing magnesium alloy dashboard and seat frames. They used high-pressure casting to create the two parts using a technology similar to Tesla’s “gigacasting” process. It involves injecting molten metal into a steel mould and filling it under high pressure before cooling.
Double-Pulse Ultrasonic Welding of Fiber-Reinforced Composite
Ultrasonic welding is widely used to join polymers because it is fast, economic and suitable for mass production. This technique joins parts through friction and viscoelastic dissipation in the polymer.
When welding polymers without an energy director, the energy is not concentrated, and coulombic friction at the faying interface is less than that of a joint with an energy director. As a result, the parts need more time to melt, and overall welding time is longer. However, thermoplastics produce viscoelastic dissipation under ultrasonic welding, which leads to an increase in part temperature with the extension of weld time. When the temperature rises above a certain point, thermal decomposition of the polymer will occur and a porous region will form, which severely deteriorates weld quality.
We have developed an alternative solution, double-pulse ultrasonic welding. In our technique, the first pulse is used to preheat the parts, while the second completes the weld. The first pulse generates heat at the joint interface. The materials at the interface melt first, and the temperature is higher there than in the middle of the workpiece. After cooling for a while, another ultrasonic pulse is applied at the same location to extend the size of the weld. The temperature in the middle of the workpiece is maintained below the decomposition temperature of the plastic by adjusting the weld time and cooling time between the two pulses. As a result, weld quality is improved by increasing energy dissipation at the joint interface while inhibiting thermal decomposition.
HBIS is producing DRI by using more than 60% of hydrogen
Chinese HBZX High Tech, part of Hebei Iron & Steel Group – HBIS, is the first worldwide steelmaker producing DRI using more than 60% Hydrogen in the feed gas mix, on industrial basis. This happened at the HBZX plant, in Xuan Hua, Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, where a new, 600,000 tpy, Zero Reformer, ENERGIRON® direct reduction plant has been supplied and achieved continuous, stable, and safely production with outstanding quality.
This is an outstanding achievement, since the plant is the first hydrogen-enriched gas-powered DRI industrial production facility in the world and represents a significant accomplishment for the Chinese steel industry, being also the first green gas-based DRI plant in the country, paving the way to the transition from the carbon-based BF route to gas-based DRI technology and electric steelmaking.
Ambient Noise Tomography Explained - ExoSphere by Fleet®
How SCARA, Six-Axis, and Cartesian Pick-And-Place Robotics Optimize and Streamline Electronics Manufacturing Processes
Hastening the adoption of robotics in semiconductor manufacture are burgeoning classes of six-axis robots, selective compliance assembly robot arms (SCARAs), cartesian machinery, and collaborative robots featuring reconfigurable or modular hardware as well as unifying software to greatly simplify implementation. These robots and their supplemental equipment must be designed, rated, and installed for cleanroom settings or else risk contaminating delicate wafers with impurities. Requirements are defined by ISO 14644-1:2015, which classifies cleanroom air cleanliness by particle concentration.
Advanced cleanroom-rated robotic end-of-arm tooling (EoAT or end effectors) such as grippers are core to semiconductor production. Here, EOATs must have high dynamics and the ability to execute tracing, placing, and assembling with exacting precision. In some cases, EoAT force feedback or machine vision boosts parts-handling accuracy by imparting adaptive capabilities — so pick-and-place routines are quickly executed even if there’s some variability in workpiece positions, for example. Such sensor and feedback advancements can sometimes render the complicated electronics-handling fixtures of legacy solutions unnecessary.
Lift: Advanced, automated metal forming, controls, training, optimization
Advanced manufacturing techniques are advancing and on display at Lift in Detroit. Lift is operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII). Lift is a public-private partnership among the U.S. Department of Defense, industry and academia, and it is part of the national network of manufacturing innovation institutes. Major participants in the Lift facility include Hexagon, Kearney, Siemens, U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Commerce.
Others, such as ABB, Fanuc and Festo, have supplied equipment to the advanced manufacturing demonstration and training facility. Siemens experts Tom Hoffman, Drew Whitney, Ed Chenhalls, Isaac Sislo, Matt Sislo and Alec Hopkins provided the Lift tour and information on April 13, during the Manufacturing in America event, in Detroit. The Siemens area at Lift headquarters can hold about 50 people for workshops on topics such as digital threads, digital twins, simulation, automation, controls, design, maintenance and industrial machinery.
New software solution to accelerate manual CAM programming time by 80%, enabling manufacturers to be more productive
CAM Assist – currently available as a plug-in within Autodesk’s Fusion 360 software platform – uses advanced computer science techniques to generate professional machining strategies for 3-axis parts in seconds, which could take CNC machine programmers hours or even days to manually create. As a result, the amount of time it takes to program a CNC machine to make a component – a bottleneck in many factories, due to a global skills shortage – is reduced by up to 80%, compared to the previous manual programming process.
Previously, depending on complexity, it could take a CAM programmer between an hour to several days to determine the best strategy to CNC machine a new component. This includes selecting the correct tools, toolpaths, and techniques – determining between hundreds of thousands of potential variables and approaches.Instead, CAM Assist uses advanced computational optimisation and AI inference techniques to rapidly determine a professional strategy and toolset needed to manufacture a part, along with the most appropriate cutting speeds and feeds from the user’s library.
How Exodigo’s Multi-Sensing Technology Transforms the Capital Projects Process
Facing a Battle for Armored Steel, This Tank Maker Bought the Factory
Threatened with a shortage of the hardened steel used to make parts of its tanks, one arms company went on the offensive: It bought a 200-year-old steel foundry to ensure supply.Now, the 1,500-degree-Celsius molten metal pouring out of a giant ladle here will be used to make parts for KNDS’s Leopard 2 tanks and other armored vehicles that are currently playing a starring role on Ukrainian battlefields.
Securing specialty metals is one of several supply-chain challenges facing the sector, where shortages of chips, rocket engines and other components have hindered efforts to arm Ukraine and replenish supplies sent there. Seeking to secure enough supplies of cast-steel parts to feed an increase in production, KNDS bought an 80% controlling stake in a German steel foundry earlier this year.
Ballistic steel is hardened by adding a mix of metal alloys and then treating it with high temperatures. One grade of steel produced by the foundry is around twice as strong as steel typically used in construction, Steinheider said.
Senvol Demonstrates Machine Learning Approach to Material Allowables
Senvol recently demonstrated a machine learning approach to material allowables development that was shown to be more flexible, cost-effective, time-effective, and equivalent to the conventional (in this case, MMPDS) approach to material allowables development.
As part of the program, Senvol demonstrated a new approach to material allowables development that leverages machine learning. A machine learning approach is extremely flexible and able to handle any change to the AM process, which makes this approach ideal for sustainment in the long-term. The program focused on demonstrating the approach using a 17-4 PH Stainless Steel material processed via a powder bed fusion AM machine.
Phase partition and online monitoring for batch processes based on Harris hawks optimization
Most industrial batch processes exhibit significantly different characteristics at different manufacturing steps, and it is advantageous to partition batch processes reasonably and establish phase models separately for online monitoring. In the present work, a novel phase partition method is developed based on Harris hawks optimization (HHO) with hard sequentiality constraint, which seeks for the optimal phase partition results under the specific target phase number in inner loop and automatically determines the optimal phase number in outer loop by making a trade-off between modeling complexity and partition performance. First, a new definition of the sum of quadratic error (SQE) is designed as the fitness function to evaluate the within-phase compactness, which makes the time-slice matrices with similar process variable correlations stay in the same phase. Then, an optimization refinement scheme (ORS) is developed to find the potential local minimum of the SQE by inspecting and reallocating the phase-adjacent samples. Afterwards, the percentage of performance improvement indicator (PPII) is proposed to determine the optimal phase numbers by quantifying the improvement of minimum SQE. For each subphase, canonical variate analysis (CVA) is performed to build statistical models for dynamic process monitoring. The effectiveness of the proposed method is illustrated by a numerical example with some outliers and an injection molding process.
Digital twins for the rapid startup of manufacturing processes: a case study in PVC tube extrusion
In this work, a soft sensor–based digital twin (DT) was developed to reduce the startup time in manufacturing plastic tubes and enable real-time product quality monitoring, i.e., the weight per unit length and the inner and outer diameters of the tube. An experimental campaign was conducted on a real tube extrusion line using three polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds and different process conditions, and machine learning regression algorithms were trained and tested to create the models of the extruder and the extrusion die the DT is based on. The characterization of the considered material, whose properties were given as input to the digital models, was carried out according to a procedure based only on the data collected by the production line. The DT was tested for the startup of the production of a single-layer tube and allowed to achieve the specified customer requirements (thickness and weight) in a few minutes. The proposed solution thus proved to be a valuable tool for reducing the setup time, thus increasing the efficiency of the process.
Major factory investments and commissions
🏭🇺🇸 Germany’s chemical groups look outside Europe to build new plants
“Investments in new plants and new technologies are flooding out of Germany,” said Michael Vassiliadis, chair of Germany’s union for the chemical and energy industries IG BCE, adding that the trend had been accelerated “since the problem with energy”.
Vassiliadis, who in his role as union leader sits on the supervisory board of BASF, said the German chemical group is a striking example of a company investing in state of the art technology in China. The world’s largest chemical company is currently building a €10bn petrochemicals complex in Zhanjiang. Modelled on the German group’s headquarters in Ludwigshafen, it will be equipped with “cutting-edge technologies” and the “highest sustainability standards”. The company has meanwhile warned that it will “permanently” downsize its operations in Europe.
🏭🇺🇸 Kraft Heinz Invests $400M to Build One of the Largest Automated CPG Distribution Centers in North America
The Kraft Heinz Company (Nasdaq: KHC) (“Kraft Heinz” or the “Company”) announced a more than $400 million investment to build one of the largest automated CPG distribution centers in North America. Located in DeKalb, Ill., the 775,000 square-foot national distribution facility will feature state-of-the-art automation technology and national railway access, enabling Kraft Heinz to drive greater supply chain efficiencies and distribute its products to retail and foodservice customers faster than ever. The facility is expected to bring more than 150 jobs to the region.
The facility’s design includes a 24/7 automated storage and retrieval system with the ability to drive twice the volume for Kraft Heinz customers, distributing more than 60 percent of the Company’s foodservice business and approximately 30 percent of all dry goods. It is also expected to contribute to Kraft Heinz’s ability to achieve its broader ESG ambitions to reduce its operational environmental footprint through the implementation of sustainable technology and solutions to reduce the waste produced at the facility and minimize its overall environmental impact.
🏭🇺🇸 LS ELECTRIC Sets Up First North American Production Base in Texas
LS ELECTRIC is establishing its first North American production base in the state of Texas in the U.S. This move comes as demand for distribution systems, an essential power infrastructure for factories, is rapidly increasing. This is due to Korean companies in the semiconductor, automobile, secondary battery, and home appliances sectors collectively building production plants in the U.S. amid escalating U.S.-China tensions.
The distance between the factory site purchased by LS ELECTRIC this time and the Samsung Electronics Foundry factory in Taylor, Texas, which is currently under construction, is only about 55 km. LS Electric had previously signed a contract in November last year to supply a distribution system worth 174.6 billion won (US$134.0 million) to Samsung Electronics’ Taylor factory.
🏭🇲🇦 Alstom boosts investment in the Moroccan rail industry
Alstom is driving the expansion of the rail industry in Morocco by investing 160 million dirhams to construct a second rail plant, which will make driving cabs for regional and underground railway trains. This latest investment will create 200 direct jobs between now and 2025.
🏭🇩🇪 Rheinmetall plans to build F-35 fuselage factory in Weeze
The new plant is due to produce at least 400 F-35A fuselage sections for the air forces of Germany and other friendly nations. An integrated technology group, Rheinmetall will be drawing here on its extensive experience in fabricating sophisticated components as well as in the aviation domain. Production is expected to commence in 2025.
Featuring state-of-the-art technology, the planned factory will be operated through Rheinmetall Aviation Services GmbH. It will have feature 60,000 square metres of floorspace. Over 400 highly skilled men and women will crew the ultramodern assembly line. In addition, the plant will include logistics and warehouse facilities, research and test centres, classrooms and quality control units.
🏭🇲🇦 Smurfit Kappa inaugurates its first plant in North Africa
The inauguration of the new integrated corrugated plant in Rabat, Morocco, marks Smurfit Kappa’s first operation in North Africa. The Group has invested over €35 million in the 25,000 m2 facility, which was completed from ground-break to operation in seven months and will support 400 direct and indirect jobs. It will serve domestic Moroccan businesses and global companies across different sectors: industrial, agricultural, FMCG, automotive, pharma and ceramics. It also features the newest Experience Centres, part of a network of over 30 centres worldwide, which showcase the latest innovations in packaging solutions.
🏭🇲🇽 Bosch Rexroth Opens Production Plant in Mexico
With the opening of a new plant in Querétaro, Mexico, Bosch Rexroth is creating more manufacturing capacity for the growth markets of mobile hydraulics and factory automation in North America and shortening delivery routes. The company is investing about 160 million euros in the new location and will create about 900 jobs by 2027. The aim is to strengthen local production for the North American factory automation and hydraulics market and thus be able to serve customers even better and more efficiently in the future.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
Big Automakers Grab $1 Billion Deal for Urgently Needed Battery Metals
Volkswagen and Jeep maker Stellantis are each committing $100 million in a complicated transaction that will create a publicly traded mining company producing nickel and copper from two Brazilian mines that run on hydropower.
They are joining with a special-purpose acquisition company run by a well-known mining executive who hopes to do more deals to build a large battery-metals company. Mining giant Glencore is also putting in $100 million and has agreed to turn the nickel and copper from the mines into battery-grade material at processing facilities in Western Europe and North America that would qualify for subsidies in the U.S. and Europe.
Meyer Burger secures €200 million from EU Innovation Fund among others
The European Commission (EC) has granted €3.6 billion (US$4.04 billion) to 41 large-scale clean tech projects via the EU Innovation Fund, including three PV modules projects under the clean tech manufacturing category.
PV module manufacturer Meyer Burger’s project HOPE (High-efficiency Onshore PV module production in Europe) obtained €200 million from the fund. The project will involve constructing an additional 3.5GW of production capacity for solar cells and solar modules by Meyer Burger in Germany and probably in Spain. According to the EC, this project will introduce new innovative heterojunction (HJT) technology, producing PV modules that can last longer with higher efficiency.
Norwegian solar company NorSun also secured €54 million for a 3GW expansion of current ingot and wafer capacity in Årdal, Vestland. This would quadruple the company’s current capacity, while the EC said the wafers produced by NorSun have much lower environmental impact and resource consumption.
Swedish solar company Midsummer received a grant of over €32 million for a new 200MW plant to produce CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) thin film solar cells. Its scalability and the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were crucial to obtaining the fund, while the lightweight CIGS thin-film solar panels can be installed on low-bearing rooftops.
FREYR Battery Awarded €100 Million EU Innovation Fund Grant
FREYR Battery, a developer of clean, next-generation battery cell production capacity, has announced that the company has been awarded a €100 million grant from the European Union to support development of FREYR’s Giga Arctic project in Norway. The grant will be funded through the EU’s Innovation Fund as part of the EU’s efforts to promote localized production of battery solutions.
Giga Arctic, which has been under development since FREYR’s Board of Directors sanctioned the start of construction in June 2022, is designed to be a 29 GWh nameplate capacity facility based on the 24M Technologies SemiSolidTM manufacturing platform and powered with 100% renewable hydroelectricity.
Silo Technologies Lands $132 Million in New Capital
Silo Technologies, the leading provider of modern technology solutions for the food supply chain, today announces $132 million in new capital. The company’s $32 million Series C round was led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, a global leader in supply chain logistics known for their focused investments in technologies that disrupt established industries. Additional participants in the round included existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Haystack Capital, Tribe Capital, Collate Capital and Moore Capital.
Silo offers a holistic fintech platform that makes financial solutions and data insights accessible for distributors and grower shipper businesses of the perishable food supply chain.
Rocsys Secures $36M to Redefine the EV Charging Experience with Autonomous Charging, Powered by AI and Robotics
Rocsys, the leading provider of autonomous charging solutions for electric transportation, today announced a $36 million Series A funding round. Led by SEB Greentech Venture Capital, the round also includes participation from Graduate Entrepreneur, the European Investment Bank, and returning investor Forward.One. With this latest investment, which includes a roughly equal split of debt and equity financing, Rocsys will expand the capabilities of its platform as it rapidly scales its presence in the United States and Europe.
Orennia Raises US$25 Million in Series B Financing to Expand Cutting-Edge Energy Transition Analytics Platform
Orennia Inc. today announced the completion of its Series B financing, raising US$25 million to accelerate the growth of its best-in-class data and analytics platform. The investment highlights Orennia’s differentiated solution for the energy transition with insights across the renewables, storage, clean fuels and decarbonization sectors. Orennia helps increase returns for the most sophisticated developers, investors, bankers and corporations by providing up-to-date and reliable energy transition analytics.
French plastic recycling robotics company b:bot raises €20 million to double its robot network and accelerate international expansion
French plastic recycling robotics company b:bot takes plastic bottles and shreds them on site, taking more lorries off the road and making 100% of the bottles offered recyclable. The robots are for public use, situated on the side of roads and in the likes of shopping centres and restaurant areas - users can either chose to take a cash reward for recycling or donate it as they watch their bottle turn to glitter. The mix of robotics and AI reduces the volume of plastic by 90% - ‘its value is tripled, eight recycling steps are eliminated and the carbon footprint of the process is reduced dramatically, all in a few seconds’.
The start-up has raised €20 million from Eiffel Investment Group and the group’s long-standing shareholder Crédit Agricole Normandie-Seine Participations. Plans are to double the size of the robot workforce by the end of this year, expand into new markets and to take on the recycling of cans next.
Dutch-based Arceon raises €350K to further develop heat-resistant aerospace materials
Delft-based Arceon, a company developing Advanced Ceramic Matrix Composites (ArCMC) to improve materials and structures, announced on Friday, July 7, that it has raised €350K in a fresh round of funding. The investment came from Early Phase Financing powered by UNIIQ.
Arceon claims it will use the funds to expand the development and marketing of its heat-resistant materials. In combination with a number of pilot and launch clients, Arceon mentions it will commercialise a number of early products.
Performance Livestock Analytics Secures Investment from Builders VC, Separates from Zoetis
Performance Livestock Analytics (PLA), a leader in data analytics solutions for livestock producers, is excited to announce its separation from Zoetis. The newly independent PLA business is led by its original founders, Dane Kuper and Dustin Balsley, and with financial investment from Builders VC. The strategic decision for PLA to separate from Zoetis is a result of PLA’s growth and increasing market demand for its cutting-edge digital solutions. The separation will provide PLA with increased agility and autonomy to respond to market dynamics and customer needs.
Builders VC’s investment will fuel PLA’s expansion plans, including further product development, expanding market reach and scaling operations to support growing customer demand.
Honeywell to Acquire SCADAfence, Strengthening its Cybersecurity Software Portfolio
Honeywell today announced it has agreed to acquire SCADAfence, a leading provider of operational technology (OT) and Internet of Things (IoT) cybersecurity solutions for monitoring large-scale networks. SCADAfence brings proven capabilities in asset discovery, threat detection and security governance which are key to industrial and buildings management cybersecurity programs.
The SCADAfence product portfolio will integrate into the Honeywell Forge Cybersecurity+ suite within Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Honeywell’s fast-growing software arm with strategic focus on digitalization, sustainability and OT cybersecurity SaaS offerings and solutions. This integration will enable Honeywell to provide an end-to-end enterprise OT cybersecurity solution to site managers, operations management and CISOs seeking enterprise security management and situational awareness. The acquisition strengthens existing capabilities in cybersecurity and bolsters Honeywell’s high-growth OT cybersecurity portfolio, helping customers operate more securely, reliably and efficiently.
nVent Acquires TEXA Industries
nVent Electric plc (NYSE: NVT) (“nVent”), a global leader in electrical connection and protection solutions, today announced it has acquired TEXA Industries, which will operate within its Enclosures business segment. The acquisition of TEXA Industries and its highly complementary portfolio strengthens nVent’s position as a global systems provider. TEXA Industries provides advanced cooling technologies with innovative industrial air conditioners and chillers to help customers better solve for increasing heat loads when designing systems.
3D Systems & Oerlikon Enter Collaboration Agreement to Scale, Accelerate Metal Additive Manufacturing
3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Oerlikon AM announced the companies have entered a collaboration agreement to further scale metal additive manufacturing. Combining both organizations’ deep process and applications expertise with 3D Systems’ Direct Metal Printing platform and Oerlikon AM’s surface engineering capabilities will enable a faster path to market for applications in high-criticality industries such as semiconductor and aerospace. As part of this agreement, Oerlikon AM is acquiring its fourth 3D Systems DMP Factory 500 system, the first Oerlikon AM is adding in the U.S., to be part of the manufacturing workflow in its North Carolina facility. This will help expand Oerlikon’s end-to-end supply chain solution for high-precision, complex aluminum components for the U.S. market.
proteanTecs and Teradyne Partner to Bring Machine Learning-driven Telemetry to SoC Testing
proteanTecs, a global leader of deep data analytics for advanced electronics, and Teradyne (NASDAQ:TER), a leading supplier of automated test solutions, announced their strategic partnership to enhance semiconductor test and debug processes for advanced system-on-chips (SoCs). By connecting proteanTecs’ on-chip agent data and analytics software with Teradyne’s test programs, customers benefit from a new level of device visibility where they need it most — on the tester, for inline and real-time decisions.