Capturing this week's zeitgeist
The UPS and Teamsters new labor deal ups the average value of a UPS full-time driver pay and benefits to $170,000 annually by the end of the contract in 2028. Unionized auto workers and construction workers look for similar gains in their negotiations.
- Chrysler owner calls for focus on reality in UAW labor talks
- The UAW has said it is seeking “audacious and ambitious” improvements, including pay raises of more than 40% over four years, significant additional time off, and a restoration of defined-benefit pensions previously eliminated for newer workers.
- US TSMC plant faces calls to ban Taiwanese workers
- Any TSMC employees brought over from Taiwan will need EB-2 visas in order to work legally in the US. These visas are intended for workers with “exceptional ability,” which would justify their employment over a US worker.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
☀️🔋 Scale and the Economic Mechanisms of Learning Rate: Applying Lessons From Solar to the Battery Industry
Learning rates quantify the unit price decline for every doubling of manufacturing capacity and have proven to be a reliable method to forecast price declines based on market growth. In renewable energy markets like solar photovoltaics (PV) and energy storage, these learning rates have held steady for years. These price declines are often considered to be a result of volume purchasing or “economies of scale” but research has shown technology to be the primary reason for continued price declines.
Two papers published by MIT staff and students only a few years apart examine and characterize PV price declines and battery price declines using a similar methodology. There are a number of similarities in the characterized price declines of PV and batteries in their respective first 20 years of commercialization.
While a specific or absolute metric may not exist, there appears to be a market size threshold for manufacturing technologies to develop. The threshold characteristics for the market include the ability to support several optimally sized plants operating at or near nameplate capacity. Another consideration may be the resources required to validate the type of technology and the associated value proposition. While new materials can be proven out in low-volume production, manufacturing technology can only be validated at a production scale, which takes considerably more resources in comparison.
🔋 The Race for Solid-State Batteries
Solid-state batteries could reshuffle the deck on the market for electric vehicles. Longer ranges, faster charging times, greater safety—solid-state batteries offer numerous advantages for electric cars. Many other applications are also conceivable, such as in aerial taxis, commercial vehicles, and buses, as well as stationary energy storage for renewables. The road to market readiness, however, is by no means clear. Six key tasks need to be solved for a breakthrough in the automotive industry alone: improving product properties, converting existing gigafactories to solid-state production, integrating the batteries into vehicle systems, establishing robust supply chains for new materials, reducing costs by enlarging cell formats, and funding the start-up stage.
While Asian manufacturers like CATL and LG dominate lithium-ion technology, most of the leaders in solid-state battery technology are start-ups in the USA. The established Asian players are not leaving the field without a fight, however. For example, leading cell manufacturers in Korea are forming close partnerships with their suppliers to drive the technology forward. The big carmakers appear to have learned their lesson from lithium-ion batteries. In order to prevent further dependence on Asian suppliers, they have been investing heavily in tech start-ups.
🔋 Behind the Scenes at Renault’s New Electric Motor Line
Last summer, Renault hit the start button on a new, highly automated line to assemble motors for electric vehicles at its historic factory in Cléon, France.
The plant has a history of deploying Industry 4.0 technologies. In 2020, for example, the facility installed three fully automated machining lines to produce crankshafts, cylinder housings and cylinder heads. Sensors in the connected machines automatically send alerts to maintenance technicians when, for example, they detect an unusual rise in temperature or abnormal vibration on a bearing.
The plant also employs automated guided vehicles, 3D printing, exoskeletons, collaborative robots and virtual reality training. Digital applications on smartphones make everyday life easier for operators.
How AI is helping airlines mitigate the climate impact of contrails
🛢️🧠 ENEOS and PFN Begin Continuous Operation of AI-Based Autonomous Petrochemical Plant System
ENEOS Corporation (ENEOS) and Preferred Networks, Inc. (PFN) announced today that their artificial intelligence (AI) system, which they have been continuously operating since January 2023 for a butadiene extraction unit in ENEOS Kawasaki Refinery’s petrochemical plant, has achieved higher economy and efficiency than manual operations.
Jointly developed by ENEOS and PFN, the AI system is designed to automate large-scale, complex operations of oil refineries and petrochemical plants that currently require operators with years of experience. The new AI system is one of the world’s largest for petrochemical plant operation according to PFN’s research, with a total of 363 sensors for prediction and 13 controlled elements. The companies co-developed the system to improve safety and stability of plant operations by reducing dependence on technicians’ varying skill levels.
🧠 Data Driven Optimization - AI, Analytics IIoT and Oden Technologies
If you can predict that offline quality test in real time, so that you know, in real time, that you’re making good products, it reduces the risk to improve the process in real time. We actually use that type of modeling to then prescribe the right set points for the customer to reach whatever outcome they want to achieve. If they want to lower the cost, lower the material consumption and lower energy consumption, increase the speed, then we actually give them the input parameters that they need to use in order to get a more efficient output.
And then the last step, which is more exploratory, which we’re working on now is also generating work instructions for the operators, kind of like an AI support system for the operator. Because still, and we recognize this, the big bottleneck for a lot of manufacturers is talent. Talent is very scarce, it’s very hard to hire a lot of people that can perform these processes, especially when they say that it’s more of an art than a science. We can lower the barrier to entry for operators to become top performers, through recommendations, predictions and generative AI for how to achieve high performance. By enabling operators to leverage science more than art or intuition, we can really change the game in terms of how we make things.
🧑🏭🦾 High-Tech Gloves Give Workers a Helping Hand
Waupaca Foundry Inc. is a leading supplier of iron castings to the automotive, commercial vehicle, agriculture, construction and industrial markets. Using state of-the-art technology, the company produces castings from gray iron, ductile iron, HNM series high-strength ductile iron, and austempered ductile iron. The company melts some 9,500 tons of metal daily.
To improve ergonomics, Waupaca Foundry is using an innovative adaptive technology to support workers who manually grind castings. The Ironhand glove, developed by a Swedish company Bioservo Technologies, is the world’s first soft exoskeleton designed for the human hand to improve grip strength and reduce effort. The system was tested at the Waupaca’s Etowah casting finishing plant and Marinette ductile iron foundry.
The system consists of a glove covering all five fingers, and a power pack worn in a backpack or hip-pack. Pressure sensors within the glove trigger servomotors within the power unit and give the wearer a more powerful grip, which is easily adjusted for each application. The glove’s “soft extra muscle” strengthening technology merges neuroscience, mechatronics and robotics, and increases worker endurance for manual assembly tasks.
Dissolving Molds: A New Way to Think About Injection Molding
Rather than mimic the conventional functionality of a tool, something new is in the game: dissolvable molds. The soluble tooling technology uses the same printer but different materials, allowing for a flexible workflow—from geometry to molds to parts.
The dissolving aspect provides design flexibility, Mason notes. Even for complex parts with undercuts and non-ideal parting lines, the mold design can be completed in 30 min., which eliminates the need to anticipate and address the pain points of a part before testing it. Mason says the speed of this approach is exceptional and molds are ready to use in less than an hour.
The dissolving aspect allows for experimentation and testing. Unlike traditional molds where changing the gate location can be costly, using the 3D printing process means each shot can have a different gate configuration. Mason says this is a liberating feature that enables a multitude of design iterations with minimal time and material costs.
Physics-Driven Generative Design: The Future of Engineering
📐 UCLA Researchers Propose PhyCV: A Physics-Inspired Computer Vision Python Library
In the latest innovation, Jalali-Lab @ UCLA has developed a new Python library called PhyCV, which is the first Physics-based Computer vision Python library. This unique library uses algorithms based on the laws and equations of physics to analyze pictorial data. These algorithms imitate how light passes through several physical materials and are based on mathematical equations rather than a series of hand-crafted rules. The algorithms in PhyCV are built on the principles of a rapid data acquisition method called the photonic time stretch.
The three algorithms included in PhyCV are – Phase-Stretch Transform (PST) algorithm, Phase-Stretch Adaptive Gradient-Field Extractor (PAGE) algorithm, and Vision Enhancement via Virtual diffraction and coherent Detection (VEViD) algorithm.
Inferring material properties from FRP processes via sim-to-real learning
Fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) provide favorable properties such as weight-specific strength and stiffness that are central for certain industries, such as aerospace or automotive manufacturing. Liquid composite molding (LCM) is a family of often employed, inexpensive, out-of-autoclave manufacturing techniques. Among them, resin transfer molding (RTM), offers a high degree of automation. Herein, textile preforms are saturated by a fluid polymer matrix in a closed mold. Both impregnation quality and level of fiber volume content are of crucial importance for the final part quality. We propose to simultaneously learn three major textile properties (fiber volume content and permeability in X and Y direction) presented as a three-dimensional map based on a sequence of camera images acquired in flow experiments and compare CNNs, ConvLSTMs, and Transformers. Moreover, we show how simulation-to-real transfer learning can improve a digital twin in FRP manufacturing, compared to simulation-only models and models based on sparse real data. The overall best metrics are: IOU 0.5031 and Accuracy 95.929 %, obtained by pretrained transformer models.
SonoPrint: Acoustically Assisted Volumetric 3D Printing for Composites
Advancements in additive manufacturing in composites have transformed various fields in aerospace, medical devices, tissue engineering, and electronics, enabling fine-tuning material properties by reinforcing internal particles and adjusting their type, orientation, and volume fraction. This capability opens new possibilities for tailoring materials to specific applications and optimizing the performance of 3D-printed objects. Existing reinforcement strategies are restricted to pattern types, alignment areas, and particle characteristics. Alternatively, acoustics provide versatility by controlling particles independent of their size, geometry, and charge and can create intricate pattern formations. Despite the potential of acoustics in most 3D printing, limitation arises from the scattering of the acoustic field between the polymerized hard layers and the unpolymerized resin, leading to undesirable patterning formation. However, this challenge can be addressed by adopting a novel approach that involves simultaneous reinforcement and printing the entire structure. Here, we present SonoPrint, an acoustically-assisted volumetric 3D printer that produces mechanically tunable composite geometries by patterning reinforcement microparticles within the fabricated structure. SonoPrint creates a standing wave field that produces a targeted particle motif in the photosensitive resin while simultaneously printing the object in just a few minutes. We have also demonstrated various patterning configurations such as lines, radial lines, circles, rhombuses, quadrilaterals, and hexagons using microscopic particles such as glass, metal, and polystyrene particles. Furthermore, we fabricated diverse composites using different resins, achieving 87 microns feature size. We have shown that the printed structure with patterned microparticles increased their tensile and compression strength by ∼38% and ∼75%, respectively.
Major factory investments and line commissions. Tracked in the Atlas.
🏭🇲🇾 Infineon to build the world’s largest 200-millimeter SiC Power Fab in Kulim, Malaysia, leading to total revenue potential of about seven billion euros by the end of the decade
By significantly expanding its Kulim fab – over and above the original investment announced in February 2022 – Infineon will build the world’s largest 200-millimeter SiC (silicon carbide) Power Fab. The planned expansion is backed by customer commitments covering about five billion euros of new design-wins in automotive and industrial applications as well as about one billion euros in pre-payments.
Infineon has been awarded new design wins of about five billion euros along with about one billion euros in prepayments from existing and new customers: In the automotive sector this includes six OEMs, three of them from China. Among the customers are Ford, SAIC and Chery. In the area of renewable energies customers include SolarEdge and three leading Chinese photovoltaic and energy storage systems companies. In addition, Infineon and Schneider Electric agreed on a capacity reservation including prepayments for power products based on silicon and silicon carbide.
🏭🇩🇪 Germany spends big to win $11 billion TSMC chip plant
Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC committed 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to a factory in Germany, its first in Europe, taking advantage of huge state support for the $11 billion plant as the continent seeks to bring supply chains closer to home. The plant, which will be TSMC’s (2330.TW) third outside of traditional manufacturing bases Taiwan and China, is central to Berlin’s ambition to foster the domestic semiconductor industry its car industry will need to remain globally competitive.
Germany, which has been courting the world’s largest contract chipmaker since 2021, will contribute up to 5 billion euros to the factory in Dresden, capital of the eastern state of Saxony, German officials said.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
✈️ Archer Accelerates Path to Market: Secures $215M Investment From Stellantis, Boeing, United Airlines, ARK Invest and Others
Archer Aviation Inc. (NYSE: ACHR), a leader in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, today announced operating and financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2023. In tandem with earnings, Archer made a series of announcements that reinforce its path to FAA certification and commercial operations in 2025. Archer has landed a $215 million equity investment from industry leaders Stellantis, Boeing and United Airlines, as well as other financial institutions, including ARK Invest, increasing the company’s total funding to over $1.1 billion to date, received FAA approval to begin flying its Midnight eVTOL aircraft, and reached an agreement with Boeing and Wisk to enter into an autonomous flight collaboration and settle litigation between the companies. Additionally, Archer announced that it is on track to complete what it believes will be the first ever eVTOL aircraft delivery to a customer as part of its recently announced contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD). These announcements come on the heels of the FAA Administrator leaving to join Archer and the DoD awarding Archer the largest total contract value of any eVTOL company.
🖨️ Boston Micro Fabrication Secures $24M Series D Funding to Drive High Value Applications
Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF), a leader in advanced manufacturing solutions for ultra-high precision applications, has raised a $24 million Series D round led by Guotai Junan Securities. With the funding, BMF will improve its innovative research and development, further promote and extend its terminal products, and strengthen its global collaborations across medtech and high-end manufacturing.
BMF was established in 2016 and is currently the only additive manufacturing company capable of producing the highest precision at the 2μm scale. To produce the industry’s most accurate and precise high-resolution 3D prints, BMF’s printers use Projection Micro Stereolithography (PμSL) technology leveraging light, customizable optics, a high-quality movement platform, and controlled processing technology. By combining multiple performance materials and related post-treatment processes, BMF has developed a new precision manufacturing solution.
Verdagy secures Series B funding led by Temasek and Shell Ventures
Verdagy, a pioneer in scaling electrolyzer technologies for industrial markets, today announced the closing of a $73-million Series B funding round. Temasek and Shell Ventures co-led the Series B round, with participation from new global investors Bidra Innovation Ventures, BlueScope, Galp, Samsung Venture Investment, Toppan Ventures, Tupras Ventures, Yara Growth Ventures and Zeon Ventures.
The new funding will enable Verdagy to accelerate the launch and commercialization of its eDynamic® 20 megawatt (MW) electrolyzer module, which will serve as a fundamental unit to future systems at the 200MW scale and beyond. Following initial commercial unit deployments with existing partners, Verdagy will expand deployment of its novel eDynamic electrolyzer technology to additional customers in heavy industries such as oil and gas, ammonia, steel and e-fuels to support global industrial decarbonization.
Tractian's new $45M Series B Funding Boosts AI-driven Maintenance Operations
Tractian, a leader in industrial IoT and enterprise asset management software, today announced $45 million in growth capital led by General Catalyst with participation from existing investor Next47 and strategic angels – including Ronan de Hooge, VP of Cloud Platform of AVEVA, Ron Gill, former SAP and Netsuite CFO, and Andy McCall, former Samsara CRO – to revolutionize the lives of maintenance professionals with its hardware-software solution. The new funding comes as Tractian’s asset monitoring system reaches over 1,000 industrial plants, and positions the company to rapidly scale customer enablement while investing in new technology innovation for its maintenance operators.
Tractian’s solutions are used in environments that address a combined total of 5% of global industrial output. The company’s broad market reach is evidenced in its customer base from various industries, such as John Deere, Procter & Gamble, Caterpillar, Goodyear, Carrier, Johnson Controls, and Bimbo, the owner of the brands Little Bites and Thomas Bagels. Tractian’s customers see a 6-12x ROI with savings of $6,000 per monitored machine annually on average.
👖 Sewts secures €7M Series A funding to transform the processing of easily deformable materials
Robotics startup sewts has successfully completed a €7 million Series A funding round. Founded in 2019 and based in Munich, sewts GmbH provides cutting-edge AI-embedded perception software, pushing the boundaries of robotics in the processing of easily deformable materials such as textiles and fois. The company has developed and demonstrated a unique technology that uses high-precision simulations to train machine learning algorithms efficiently. Combined with suitable hardware, it enables countless applications in industrial automation, like handling textiles in industrial laundries or manufacturing garments.
Sewts will use this fresh capital to progress with our growth targets internationally. These include launching further VELUM systems in international large-scale laundries and, as a next step, refining our prototype for the automated handling of returns in online shopping.”
🖨️🦾 Swiss startup SAEKI launches with $2.3M seed funding for industrial micro-factories
Swiss startup SAEKI has launched from stealth with a $2.3 million seed funding round to create fully automated plants with industrial robots using 3D technology to create anything from wings for aircraft to construction site installations. The funding round was led by Wingman Ventures, including participation from Vento Ventures, Getty Capital and angel investors.
The company is building its first production hub, offering industrial robots that act as micro-factories, combining multiple digital manufacturing methods, from 3D printing, milling, and inspection to creating an all-in-one low-waste production process and recyclable materials. It provides an end-to-end automation solution in 24 hours.
Allegro MicroSystems to Acquire Crocus Technology to Accelerate Innovation in TMR Sensing Technology
Allegro MicroSystems, Inc. (“Allegro”) (Nasdaq: ALGM), a global leader in power and sensing semiconductor technology for motion control and energy efficient systems, today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Crocus Technology (“Crocus”) for $420 million in cash.
Crocus is a privately held company and a leader in advanced Tunnel Magnetoresistance (“TMR”) sensor technology. This acquisition brings unique technology and products well suited to serve high-growth applications in e-Mobility, Clean Energy and Automation, supported by more than 200 patents. The magnetic sensing market is expected to increase to over $5 billion by 2030, with TMR representing the fastest growing segment and expected to approach $1 billion in addressable market by 2030. Automotive and Industrial applications are expected to fuel TMR’s estimated 30% CAGR, which significantly exceeds the growth of the overall magnetic sensing market.
🧫 Ginkgo Bioworks Announces Collaboration with Merck to Improve Biologic Manufacturing
Ginkgo Bioworks (NYSE: DNA), which is building the leading platform for cell programming and biosecurity, today announced a new collaboration with Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, focused on improving biologic manufacturing.
Ginkgo will apply its expertise and capabilities in cell engineering, ultra high-throughput multiplexed screening, protein characterization and process optimization to improve production efficiency and increase yields. Under the terms of the collaboration, Ginkgo is eligible to receive, in aggregate, up to $490 million in upfront research fees, research milestone fees, option license payments and commercial milestone payments.