Capturing this week's zeitgeist
PFAS bans come into effect starting with Minnesota and eventually nationally. Manufacturers are still assessing their PFAS risks and closing facilities. Labor spats heat up in Arizona with TSMC and Detroit with the Big 3 automakers.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
🧀 Next Time You Buy Parmesan, Watch Out for the Microchip
Italian producers of parmesan cheese have been fighting against imitations for years. Now, makers of Parmigiano-Reggiano, as the original parmesan cheese is officially called, are slapping the microchips on their 90-pound cheese wheels as part of an endless cat-and-mouse game between makers of authentic and fake products.
The new silicon chips, made by Chicago-based p-Chip, use blockchain technology to authenticate data that can trace the cheese as far back as the producer of the milk used. The chips have been in advanced testing on more than 100,000 Parmigiano wheels for more than a year. The consortium of producers wants to be sure the chips can stand up to Parmigiano’s aging requirement, which is a minimum of one year and can exceed three years for some varieties.
Drugmaker Merck KGaA will soon begin using the chips, which are also being tested in the automotive industry to guarantee the authenticity of car parts. The chips could eventually be used on livestock, crops or medicine stored in liquid nitrogen.
“We don’t want to be known as the company accused of tracking people,” said Eibon. “I ate one of the chips and nobody is tracking me, except my wife, and she uses a different method.”
♻️ Plant-Based Plastics Gain Favor as Companies Pursue Sustainability Goals
Bioplastics are expanding faster than recycled plastic in some cases, such as in Asian countries like China and Japan that are mandating more ecologically friendly materials, nova-Institute founder Michael Carus said. Even if global plastic recycling rates someday reach 70% compared with around 9% today, bioplastics alongside materials made from captured carbon dioxide will have a big role to play as the world transitions away from fossil-fuel-based materials.
The strongest demand for bioplastics is currently from fashion and food-packaging companies, but interest is also rising from companies in cosmetics, electronics and more durable goods such as tools, Eastman Chemical’s Chief Technology Officer Chris Killian said. Some of the earliest adopters of bioplastics are fashion companies, including Lululemon, which has a goal to replace the majority of oil-based nylon with plant-based nylon by 2030.
This year, Dow struck an agreement with biomass refinery startup New Energy Blue to buy bioethylene made from the stalks and leaves of corn grown in Iowa. Dow will then make conventional and recyclable plastics from the material and sell to companies in transportation, footwear, and packaging.
How Space Factories Are Becoming A Reality
🔋🦾 Battery Manufacturer Boosts Output With Automation
ESS Inc. of Wilsonville, OR, has developed iron-flow battery systems, the Energy Warehouse and the Energy Center, designed to meet the energy needs of customers ranging from small industrial facilities to large, utility-scale projects. The Energy Warehouse is built inside a standard 40-foot shipping container for easy transport and commissioning. It provides six to 12 hours of storage, with a nominal power of 75 kilowatts (kW), a peak energy capacity of 500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and a rated energy capacity of 400 kWh. ESS was selected by Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest energy provider, to provide an Energy Warehouse for a solar energy system at a gas compression facility. Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to two thirds of Michigan’s 10 million residents.
Initially, ESS assembled products manually. As volumes grew, it implemented a semiautomatic assembly line. Workers manually assembled the stacks of materials that made up the positive and negative electrodes of the battery. Those stacks would then be handed off to robots to ensure that the seal between all the layers is done with great precision. Even on the semiautomatic line, control software is used to reduce idle time and improve utilization of key equipment.
🗜️ Hyundai Rotem unveils ultra-large servo press line
Hyundai Rotem, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Group and a South Korean railway system manufacturer, announced on Thursday that it held a demonstration event of its next-generation servo press with a capacity of 6,800 tons for domestic and international customers at its Dangjin plant. Hyundai Rotem plans to deliver the servo press to Hyundai Motor’s electric car factory in the state of Georgia in the United States.
“Through the introduction of the ultra-large servo press, we have gained a technological advantage in the automotive production equipment market,” a company source said. “Through continuous research and development, we aim to capture a significant portion of the global press market.”
Eliminate Conveyor Jam False Alarms to Boost Factory Automation Productivity
Fast-moving conveyors are widely used in factory automation to accelerate production and enhance efficiency. But occasionally, things can go wrong. A frequent problem is jamming; one item gets stuck, and then others quickly pile up behind. This is not only bad for throughput and damaging to the conveyor system, but it can also be dangerous for nearby workers.
Recent laser sensor product introductions reduce the number of false alarms by leveraging more advanced optical technology and software algorithms. This article briefly describes the two types of light sensors used for jam detection: LED and lasers. It then focuses on the time-of-flight (ToF) laser and considers the key factors that determine how well the sensor performs. The article also introduces a real-world ToF laser sensor from Banner Engineering and illustrates how to set one up for a conveyor jam detection application.
Major factory investments and line commissions. Tracked in the Atlas.
🏭🇨🇦 EcoProBM, SK On, Ford Investing in Québec; Building Cathode Plant to Solidify EV supply chain in North America
SK On, EcoProBM and Ford are announcing an investment of C$1.2 billion to build a cathode manufacturing facility that will provide materials that ultimately supply batteries for Ford’s future electric vehicles. Once production begins in the first half of 2026, the site will have the capacity to produce up to 45,000 tonnes of CAM per year.
This new facility – Ford’s first investment in Québec – is part of the automaker’s plan to localize key battery raw material processing in regions where it produces EVs. EcoPro CAM Canada LP will manufacture cathode active materials and, more precisely, high quality Nickel Cobalt Manganese (NCM) for rechargeable batteries that are targeting greater performance levels and improved EV range compared to existing products, thanks in part to EcoPro’s core shell gradient (CSG) technology.
🏭🇺🇸 A renewable energy battery plant will rise in West Virginia where a steel mill once stood
A cutting-edge energy storage company is building its main manufacturing plant where a once-thriving West Virginia steel mill once stood in the city of Weirton. According to lawmakers, the much-lauded project was made possible by incentives from 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Form Energy, a Massachusetts-based company helmed by a former Tesla vice-president, broke ground on its iron-air battery manufacturing plant this past May. Workers will produce batteries capable of storing electricity for 100 hours, which will run on iron, water and air instead of the more common but less-abundant metal lithium. The $760m project will create 750 well-paying permanent jobs, the company said.
🏭🇺🇸 Two Towns, Two Factories: How a $500 Billion Boom Exposes American Failures
The new industrial boom has the potential to widen this divide rather than close it. Rockingham’s pet food plant in Eden, a fading mill town of 15,000, will employ 300 people; Chatham’s, 1,800. On average, the Rockingham workers will earn $42,000 a year; Chatham’s, $78,000. Or consider the sheer industrial and economic impact of each employer. Nestlé Purina is investing $450 million, the most valuable economic development project in Rockingham County history. Wolfspeed is investing $5 billion, the most in state history. Again and again, the Rockinghams are falling behind the Chathams even when both win economic prizes.
Today’s manufacturing turnaround has so far largely bypassed these hardest-hit places, according to a Bloomberg analysis of data provided by the White House and the China shock authors. Only 16 of those 100 commuter zones most affected by the China shock have won even a single new manufacturing investment since 2021.
🏭🇺🇸 John Deere, Kreisel To Build Batteries and Chargers in Kernersville, North Carolina
Deere & Company has selected a location in Kernersville, North Carolina, for the construction of a 115,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The factory will expand production capacity of Kreisel Electric (“Kreisel”) products. Kreisel, which John Deere acquired majority ownership of in 2022, produces innovative battery technology for e-mobility and stationary systems as well as comprehensive Level 3 charging solutions. The planned production facility can support a production capacity of up to 2 GWh. John Deere plans to break ground on the new facility in fall 2023, and production is estimated to begin in 2025.
The new facility will be equipped to produce Kreisel battery pack designs and CHIMERO chargers as the company reinforces its commitment to helping John Deere and original equipment manufacturers navigate the rapidly changing electrification landscape.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
Arm Announces Public Filing for Proposed Initial Public Offering
Arm Holdings Limited (“Arm”) today announced that it has publicly filed a registration statement on Form F-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the proposed initial public offering of American depositary shares (“ADS”) representing its ordinary shares. Arm has applied to list the ADSs on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “ARM”. The number of ADSs to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have yet to be determined.
🔋 Northvolt raises $1.2 billion convertible note as first energy storage systems are produced at Northvolt Dwa
As Northvolt assembles its first battery systems at Northvolt Dwa in Poland, the company today announced the raising of $1.2 billion to finance plans for its further European and North American expansion. The funding is an extension of the $1.1 billion convertible note signed in July 2022, and has attracted investment from funds labeled dark green in accordance with Article 9 of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). Leading the extension are the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO), BlackRock and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), as well as long-term financial partner OMERS, making its third major investment in the company.
🔋 American Battery Factory Raises Development Capital in Series A Funding Round to Support Continued Growth
American Battery Factory Inc. (ABF), an emerging battery manufacturer leading the development of the first network of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cell gigafactories in the United States, today announced that it has raised significant development capital in Series A funding from investors, including a significant investment from Lion Energy. Results of the funding round mark a milestone to secure production equipment and security technology needed for the first development phase of its recently announced gigafactory in Tucson, Arizona.
🖥️🏭 Pico MES Announces $12M Series A to Boost American Manufacturing for Mid-sized Factories & Build a Connected Supply Chain
Pico MES, a software company that is enabling digital transformation for small to medium-sized American factories, today announced a $12.35M Series A investment led by Bosch Ventures and joined by new investors from Counterpart Ventures and Momenta. Existing investors Lemnos, Congruent Ventures, Union Labs, and SE Ventures participated in the round as well. Since its founding in 2019, Pico MES has integrated 10,000 processes into digital data streams from over 700 workstations and connected over 1,900 devices to its platform.
🔋 ACCURE Battery Intelligence Secures €7.2 Million Investment
ACCURE Battery Intelligence, the leading provider of predictive analytics software to ensure battery safety, performance and extended life for energy storage, electric vehicles, and other applications, today announced it has secured a €7.2 million ($7.8 million) investment. The round was led by Blue Bear Capital and HSBC Asset Management, and included Riverstone Ventures and Capnamic Ventures. The funding will enable ACCURE to accelerate its growth and provide comprehensive battery asset health and monitoring solutions to businesses worldwide across energy, electric vehicles, transit, marine, insurance and other industries.
ACCURE’s predictive analytics platform uses AI, field data and modeling to detect irregular battery cell behavior and provide an independent third-party view of battery health. The platform gives fleet operators and energy storage providers more control and weeks of lead time to address critical issues, ensuring battery systems run safely and at claimed manufacturer levels, maximizing asset value. ACCURE’s solutions have led to the prevention of over 50 battery incidents and have significantly increased the performance and output of utility-scale storage systems around the world.
🗜️ Ontario Welcomes $5 Million Manufacturing Investment in Macrodyne Technologies
The Ontario government is welcoming a $5 million investment by Macrodyne Technologies Inc., North America’s largest manufacturer of hydraulic presses and automation systems, equipment used by manufacturers in over 40 industries to shape and mould materials such as metal, plastic, rubber and wood. This investment will be used to purchase the latest manufacturing technology for the company’s facilities in Vaughan and create 25 new good-paying jobs for machine builders, electricians, hydraulic technicians and engineers.
With their $5 million investment, Macrodyne Technologies will purchase state-of-the-art, technology to expand their product line and add more automation and AI solutions. This new technology will also help the company double production to meet growing demand from customers around the world, including those in the steel and aluminum, automotive, aerospace and pulp and paper industries. As part of this investment, the government is providing Macrodyne Technologies with $750,000 in funding through the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Competitiveness (AMIC) stream of its Regional Development Program.
🦠 Cascade Biocatalysts Secures $2.6M to Scale Enzymes for Biomanufacturing
Cascade Biocatalysts, a biomanufacturing company catalyzing green chemistry, raised an oversubscribed $2.6 M pre-seed led by Ten VC with participation from Amplify.LA, Boost VC, Range Ventures, Spacecadet, and the Cool Climate Collective. Cascade aims to use the raised funds to scale its impact from the lab bench to pilot scale and to support its initial wave of customers.
Cascade’s vision is to make the industrial use of enzymes more affordable to accelerate the transition to greener chemical manufacturing. At the heart of Cascade Biocatalysts’ breakthrough lies its proprietary technology, the patent-pending Body Armor for Enzymes™, which drives more cost-effective and sustainable chemical reactions by improving enzyme performance.
🖨️ EOS North America and 3YOURMIND Launch Rapid Part Identifier Program
EOS North America’s Additive Minds team and 3YOURMIND have partnered to accelerate additive manufacturing (AM) adoption through their Rapid Part Identifier program. Now, organizations can benefit from the rapid part screening of 2D and 3D files, augmented by AM engineering expertise to create a holistic industrial 3D printing strategy. This new partnership agreement helps quickly scale part identification for AM, supported by the strategy and engineering required to achieve successful production.
🖥️ ABB invests in edge-to-cloud platform innovator Pratexo
ABB is investing in a strategic partnership with Pratexo, an edge-to-cloud acceleration platform company. The partnership involves a minority investment in Pratexo through ABB’s venture capital unit, ABB Technology Ventures (ATV). Financial details of the investment were not disclosed.
The collaboration with Pratexo will help ABB’s customers deploy edge-based networks and solution architectures that provide real time insights, with the added benefits of reduced cloud data transfer volumes, improved data privacy and security, and the ability to run even when not connected to the internet.
🦾 Doosan Robotics to develop GPT-based collaborative robots
Doosan Robotics, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Doosan Group specializing in robot solutions, is venturing into the development of collaborative robot solutions using AI-based GPT (generative pre-trained transformer) technology to enhance its software capabilities.
Doosan Robotics announced it has entered into a business agreement with Microsoft and Doosan Digital Innovation to develop a GPT-based robot control system” utilizing Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service. Azure OpenAI provides cloud services that include cutting-edge open AI systems, including GPT.
Doosan Robotics plans to apply GPT to its collaborative robots, enabling them to autonomously correct errors and perform tasks. Once the solution is developed, programming time will be reduced, leading to improved operational efficiency and utility.
♻️ Amcor, Mondelēz International and Licella partner to promote circular economy
Leaders in the packaging value chain have today joined forces to further advance a circular economy for plastic packaging in Australia. Amcor (NYSE: AMCR, ASX: AMC), a global leader in developing and producing responsible packaging solutions, and Mondelēz International, Inc. (Nasdaq: MDLZ), the company with iconic snack brands Cadbury, The Natural Confectionery Company, Pascall and others, are investing in advanced recycling technology pioneer Licella in an important step towards ending plastic waste.
The investments announced today will help Licella progress construction of one of the first advanced recycling facilities in Australia. Licella will use its innovative Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) technology to recycle end-of-life plastic back into a crude oil substitute suitable to produce new food-grade plastic packaging.