Capturing this week's zeitgeist
First, there was an expert system beating the world’s best chess players. Eventually, AI conquered Go and Starcraft. These most recent two games could be simulated at scale to create superhuman performance through a technique referred to as reinforcement learning. Now, AI most recently eclipsed elite human drone racers using the same approach:
The solution, says Scaramuzza, is to use deep-reinforcement learning. You’re still training your system in simulation, but you’re also tasking your reinforcement-learning algorithm with making continuous adjustments, tuning the system to a specific track in a real-world environment. Some real-world data is collected on the track and added to the simulation, allowing the algorithm to incorporate realistically “noisy” data to better prepare it for flying the actual course. The drone will never fly the most mathematically optimal trajectory this way, but it will fly much faster than it would using a trajectory designed in an entirely simulated environment.
Real-world industrial applications are indeed “noisy” and hard to control. The race is on to build end-to-end production systems with software-defined sensors and feed them into deep-reinforcement learning algorithms to enable autonomous production. Some chemical processes have achieved full autonomy, the only question that remains is which ones are next.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
🌡️🎛️ Why do we need software-defined factories?
The next logical step is to create a software-configurable universal analog front end (AFE). An example is NXP’s N-AFE. In comparison with other universal AFEs currently available, it also integrates all of the discrete components that go into the system, such as protection and signal conditioning, and a slew of diagnostics features. Because it is software-configurable, all the maintenance engineer has to do is replace the sensor and reconfigure the analog input module remotely via the user interface, eliminating the time required to replace the entire measurement unit.
In a system that integrates universal AFEs, the role of the PLC is expanded to include performing safety checks before, during and after these actions by communicating with internal diagnostics and programming terminals to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
How to Train a MIRAI Positioning Skill
🧠🤖 Optimising Intralogistics with AI
In its production facilities in Barntrup, KEB operates the in-house transport system AGILOX, which is designed specifically for intralogistics tasks. The AGILOX system is comprised of a swarm (union) of smart automated guided vehicles (AGVs), working collaboratively to transport items throughout KEB’s warehouses.
In AutoQML – a project that develops solution approaches for linking quantum computing and machine learning – KEBs primary objective is to devise a machine learning solution capable of monitoring vehicle status and predicting potential failures. This aligns with KEBs larger objective of facilitating the broader transition to quantum computing in the future, by supporting research institutes with practical, real-world applications.
🧠🚚 Venti Aims To Bring Autonomous Vehicles To Ports, Factories And Airports
Venti Technologies, based in both Singapore and Boston, Massachusetts, is helping to advance the category with its autonomous logistics for industrial and global supply chain hubs. The technology and algorithms behind Venti were invented by Dr. Daniela Rus, who is also the director of CSAIL—the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which in the past has been the source of many start-ups representing some $2 trillion in revenue.
Preparing a container port of this size for the use of autonomous vehicles is no small technological feat. The container port is six kilometres on a side and Venti had to GPS map the facility down to a meter. Then, using mathematical modelling, deep learning, and theoretically grounded algorithms, Venti’s proprietary platform of autonomy technologies, including a suite of powerful logistics algorithms is deployed to automate the interactions between vehicles at one of largest and most technologically sophisticated ports in the world.
🧠🦾 Google’s Robotic Transformer 2: More Than Meets the Eye
Google DeepMind’s Robotic Transformer 2 (RT2) is an evolution of vision language model (VLM) software. Trained on images from the web, RT2 software employs robotics datasets to manage low-level robotics control. Traditionally, VLMs have been used to combine inputs from both visual and natural language text datasets to accomplish more complex tasks. Of course, ChatGTP is at the front of this trend.
Google researchers identified a gap in how current VLMs were being applied in the robotic space. They note that current methods and approaches tend to focus on high-level robotic theory such as strategic state machine models. This leaves a void in the lower-level execution of robotic action, where the majority of control engineers execute work. Thus, Google is attempting to bring the power and benefits of VLMs down into the control engineers’ domain of programming robotics.
Challenges In Ramping New Manufacturing Processes
🧠🎛️ Multi-objective reinforcement learning in process control: A goal-oriented approach with adaptive thresholds
In practical control problems with multiple conflicting objectives, multi-objective optimization (MOO) problems must be simultaneously addressed. To tackle these challenges, scholars have extensively studied multi-objective reinforcement learning (MORL) in recent years. However, due to the complexity of the system and the difficulty in determining preferences between objectives, complex continuous control processes involving MOO problems still require further research. In this study, an innovative goal-oriented MORL algorithm is proposed. The agent is better guided for optimization through adaptive thresholds and goal selection strategy. Additionally, the reward function is refined based on the chosen objective. To validate the approach, a comprehensive environment for the fermentation process is designed. Experimental results show that our proposed algorithm surpasses other benchmark algorithms in most performance metrics. Moreover, the Pareto solution set found by our algorithm is closer to the true Pareto frontier of fermentation problems.
Major factory investments and line commissions. Tracked in the Atlas.
🏭🇺🇸 Gov. Kemp: Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution to Invest Additional $2B in Bryan County
Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution (LGES) will invest an additional $2 billion in their battery cell manufacturing joint venture (JV) at the Metaplant in Bryan County, raising the JV’s total investment value to more than $4.3 billion. This expansion will create another 400 new jobs.
In May 2023, Hyundai Motor Group and LGES signed a memorandum of understanding establishing LGES as the partner for Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America’s (HMGMA) onsite battery cell manufacturing JV. With today’s announcement, the EV manufacturing facility and the battery JV represents an estimated $7.59 billion in investment and will create 8,500 new jobs for the region over the next eight years.
🏭🇺🇸 Eaton invests more than $500 million in North American manufacturing to support electrification, energy transition and digitalization across industries
Intelligent power management company Eaton (NYSE:ETN) has announced significant investments in its North American manufacturing and operations to support rapidly growing demand for its electrical solutions. The company is expanding manufacturing and bolstering resilience to increase the supply of its solutions for customers in utility, commercial, healthcare, industrial and residential markets across North America. The majority of these investments will be complete in 2024 and 2025.
Eaton is adding 200,000-square-feet to its Nacogdoches, Texas manufacturing facility, more than doubling its size. The Texas expansion frees up capacity at the company’s largest Wisconsin manufacturing facility in Waukesha, where Eaton is investing in equipment to increase manufacturing of three-phase transformers for utility, data center, large commercial and industrial applications.
🏭🇩🇪 Airbus opens new A321XLR equipment installation hangar
Airbus is advancing its industrial system and expanding ramp-up capacity with a new automated A321XLR equipping hangar, officially opened today by Hamburg’s First Mayor Peter Tschentscher and German Aerospace Coordinator Anna Christmann. With this, Airbus continues its modernisation and digitalisation of its industrial system and expands its capacity for the rate ramp-up in the A320 programme to 75 in 2026.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
🔋♻️ Redwood Materials raises over $1 billion in Series D investment round
Redwood is pleased to announce the completion of our most recent equity funding round, in which we raised more than $1 billion in Series D shares. The round which was co-led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. We will use our Series D funding to continue building our capacity, expanding the domestic battery supply chain and allowing our customers to purchase battery materials made in the US for the first time.
Redaptive Secures $125M Financing from Deutsche Bank to Deploy Energy-As-A-Service Solutions for Sustainability Programs
Redaptive, Inc., the Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) leader, has announced it secured $125 million in financing from Deutsche Bank’s US Private Credit & Infrastructure group to help accelerate metering, HVAC, solar, LED, EV, and other efficiency and sustainability solutions. The warehouse facility provided by Deutsche Bank will securitize Redaptive’s diverse portfolio of customer contracts allowing Redaptive to provide customers with the most competitive pricing for EaaS and data offerings.
Redaptive helps major corporations achieve net zero goals through fully-funded end-to-end energy-saving and renewable upgrades with their EaaS offering. The company also tracks and analyzes building performance and consumption of water, gas, and energy for ESG reporting for customer building portfolios via their metering platform - Redaptive ONE.
♻️ Sortera Technologies Closes $30.5 Million in New Funding to Fully Commercialize Its State-of-the-Art Upcycling Facility
Sortera Technologies, Inc., an innovative material sorting company with a recycling platform powered by artificial intelligence, data analytics, and advanced sensors, today announced the close of a $30.5 million Series C funding round led by RA Capital Management-Planetary Health with participation from certain funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., the Mineral Resources Group, which is a part of Mitsubishi Corporation’s Business Incubation Unit, and Macquarie GIG Energy Transition Solutions. This funding will fuel Sortera’s growth as a major player in the domestic upcycling space.
In just two and a half years of operations, Sortera has demonstrated that its technology platform can accurately and rapidly handle complex sorting of pre-production aluminum and end-of-life mixed metals. Sortera’s first full-scale facility, located in Markle, Indiana, is currently being commissioned to sort up to 220 million pounds of mixed metals per year. By sorting mixed metals into single alloy streams, Sortera enables greater use of recycled material in manufacturing, lowers the costs of metals production, increases the availability of metals for domestic manufacturers, and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with virgin metals production. The resulting high-quality upcycled materials from Sortera’s operation will be put back into the U.S. market, representing a significant contribution to the circular economy movement and to the security of domestic resources. The Series C funds will be used to expand Sortera’s operations in North America and accelerate the company’s growth in the more than $1 trillion metals and recycling markets.
🎛️ ControlRooms.ai Raises $10 Million in Series A Funding Led by Origin Ventures
ControlRooms.ai, the leading provider of AI-assisted troubleshooting for heavy industry, today announced that it has closed an oversubscribed $10 million Series A financing round. The round was led by Origin Ventures, with participation from Amity Ventures, Tokio Marine Future Fund, S3 Ventures, GTM Fund, Alpha Square Group, and FJ Labs among others.
The funding will be used to accelerate ControlRooms.ai’s product development and go-to-market in the chemical, energy, and materials segments of heavy industry. ControlRooms.ai is live at industry leaders such as OCI Global and Ardagh Group. With the ControlRooms AI-assisted troubleshooting application, teams enhance productivity, minimize downtime, and optimize resource allocation. ControlRooms.ai does not rely on pre-programmed, static rules to identify operational problems. Instead, its AI dynamically learns plant behavior on its own and surfaces issues before humans or alarms can detect them.
🎛️ Flojoy Announces $1.3M in Seed Capital From Flybridge Capital Partners, Boreal Ventures, and BDC Capital
Flojoy announces an oversubscribed seed round of $1.3 million USD from Flybridge Capital Partners, Boreal Ventures, and BDC Capital to disrupt the test, measurement, & control (TMC) market with its open-source, Python-based AI software. TMC is the bedrock of every research and development “hard-tech” laboratory and software enterprise. Over the past century, there would have been zero applied science and manufacturing progress without the invention of the computer and its application to sense and control physical spaces. Now, TMC UX will undergo a renaissance, building off of the last decade of open-source software innovation.
Amplified Industries Emerges From Stealth With $10 Million in Funding and a Mission To Bring New Digital Technologies to Heavy Industries
Amplified Industries (formerly Acoustic Wells), a pioneering industrial Internet of Things (IoT) solution, today announced its official launch from stealth with an in-market solution and $10 million in funding.
Amplified Industries is transforming the field, replacing aging and labor-intensive tools with an affordable and comprehensive automation solution that enables operators to monitor and control equipment remotely through a smartphone or desktop. Developed with simplicity and usability at its core, the solution ensures complete visibility into operations, ultimately creating a smarter and cleaner oil field.
The solution is proven in the market with over 4,000 devices deployed across six US states, with results improving overall profitability by more than 15 percent while eliminating hundreds of thousands of gallons of spills and maximizing asset life. The full-field automation and monitoring system provides data detecting mechanical issues and leak prevention, including an automatic emergency shut-off for pump failures.
IFS to acquire Falkonry AI
IFS, the global cloud enterprise software company, today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Falkonry, Inc. a California-based Industrial AI software company that provides automated, high-speed data analysis to the manufacturing and defense industries. The AI-based, self-learning solution continuously monitors large volumes of data for assets, machines, systems, and industrial processes to discover and analyze unusual behavior and causes of failures.
Headquartered in California, USA, and regional presence in Mumbai, India, Falkonry was founded in 2012 by CEO Nikunj Mehta. The company has customers across North America, South America, and Europe, including the US Navy and Air Force, Ternium, North American Stainless, Harbour Energy, and SSAB, demonstrating its focus on industries in industrial manufacturing and Defense agencies.
🎛️ Fluke Reliability Acquires AI-Powered Vibration Analytics and Remote Condition Monitoring Solution Azima DLI
Fluke Reliability, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortive Corporation [NYSE: FTV], which empowers reliability and maintenance teams with the hardware, software, and services they need to optimize asset performance, has acquired Azima DLI, a market leader in subscription-based remote condition monitoring and AI-powered vibration analytics software.
📊 Simplify and Accelerate IoT Data-Driven Innovation
Databricks is thrilled to announce strategic partnerships to deliver specialized expertise and unparalleled value to the industry. These partnerships allow companies to simplify access to complex datasets, generate actionable insights and accelerate the time to value with the Lakehouse platform.
Seeq, a global leader in advanced analytics for the process manufacturing industries, delivers self-service, enterprise SaaS solutions to accelerate critical insights and action from historically unused data. Sight Machine enables real-time data-driven operations for manufacturers to achieve breakthrough performance by continuously improving profitability, productivity, and sustainability. Kobai delivers unparalleled semantic capabilities to unify operational and enterprise data and empowers all users to make better decisions and drive operational excellence. Companies across the Fortune 500 leverage Plotly’s powerful interactive analytics and visualization tools to build and scale production-grade data apps quickly and easily.
🧠🚜 Driverless in the field: Agriculture companies Krone and Lemken rely on software from Apex.AI for autonomous farming machines
Apex.AI, a company that develops safety-certified software for mobility and autonomous applications, announced today a joint product development project for commercial-ready autonomous farming systems with Krone, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery and precision agricultural technology, and Lemken, a company that manufactures innovative machines for tillage, sowing and sustainable plant care. The ‘Combined Powers’ concept vehicle, which was developed by Krone and Lemken, is an autonomous drive unit that acts as a smart system that can plow, cultivate, sow, mow, turn and swath. The companies are now transitioning the concept carrier vehicle from the prototype stage to series production by leveraging Apex.AI’s Software Development Kit (SDK), consisting of Apex.Grace and Apex.Ida.