Capturing this week's zeitgeist
Musk developed the “idiot index,” which calculated how much more costly a finished product was than the cost of its basic materials. If a product had a high idiot index, its cost could be reduced significantly by devising more efficient manufacturing techniques.
The index was the ratio of the total cost of a component to the cost of its materials. Something with a high idiot index - say, a component that cost $1,000 when the aluminum that composed it cost only $100 - was likely to have a design that was too complex or a manufacturing process that was too inefficient.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
🗜️ Tesla reinvents carmaking with quiet breakthrough
The company pioneered the use of huge presses with 6,000 to 9,000 tons of clamping pressure to mold the front and rear structures of its Model Y in a “gigacasting” process that slashed production costs and left rivals scrambling to catch up.
In a bid to extend its lead, Tesla is closing in on an innovation that would allow it to die cast nearly all the complex underbody of an EV in one piece, rather than about 400 parts in a conventional car, the people said. Two of the sources said Tesla’s previously unreported new design and manufacturing techniques meant the company could develop a car from the ground up in 18 to 24 months, while most rivals can currently take anywhere from three to four years. The five people said a single large frame - combining the front and rear sections with the middle underbody where the battery is housed - could be used in Tesla’s small EV which it aims to launch with a price tag of $25,000 by the middle of the decade.
Tesla turned to firms that make test molds out of industrial sand with 3D printers. Using a digital design file, printers known as binder jets deposit a liquid binding agent onto a thin layer of sand and gradually build a mold, layer by layer, that can die cast molten alloys. The aluminium alloys used to produce the castings behaved differently in sand and metal molds and often failed to meet Tesla’s criteria for crashworthiness and other attributes. The casting specialists overcame that by formulating special alloys, fine-tuning the molten alloy cooling process, and also coming up with an after-production heat treatment, three of the sources said. And once Tesla is happy with the prototype mold, it can then invest in a final metal one for mass production.
What's Actually Inside a Fanless Industrial Edge Computer?
🪱🤖 GE Develops Worm-Inspired Robot For On-Wing Engine Inspections
Resembling an inchworm, the Sensiworm (Soft ElectroNics Skin-Innervated Robotic Worm) uses untethered soft robotics technology to move easily through the nooks, crannies and curves of jet engine parts to detect defects and corrosion. The robot is also able to measure the thickness of an engine’s thermal barrier coatings.
Developed in partnership with SEMI Flex Tech, Binghamton University and UES, Inc., Sensiworm is controlled by an operator using a device that GE says is similar to a gaming controller and can be programmed to follow specific paths. “It has a sticky, suction-like bottom that enables it to climb and adhere to steep surfaces. Also, because the robot is very soft and compliant, it won’t harm any surfaces or cause any damage during an inspection,” says a spokesperson for GE.
According to GE, Sensiworm could reduce unnecessary engine removals and downtime, enabling faster turnarounds. Although Sensiworm is currently focused on engine inspections, Trivedi says the OEM is developing new capabilities that would enable the robot to execute repairs once it finds a defect.
☁️🧠 Automated Cloud-to-Edge Deployment of Industrial AI Models with Siemens Industrial Edge
Due to the sensitive nature of OT systems, a cloud-to-edge deployment can become a challenge. Specialized hardware devices are required, strict network protection is applied, and security policies are in place. Data can only be pulled by an intermediate factory IT system from where it can be deployed to the OT systems through highly controlled processes.
The following solution describes the “pull” deployment mechanism by using AWS services and Siemens Industrial AI software portfolio. The deployment process is enabled by three main components, the first of which is the Siemens AI Software Development Kit (AI SDK). After a model is created by a data scientist on Amazon SageMaker and stored in the SageMaker model registry, this SDK allows users to package a model in a format suitable for edge deployment using Siemens Industrial Edge. The second component, and the central connection between cloud and edge, is the Siemens AI Model Manager (AI MM). The third component is the Siemens AI Inference Server (AIIS), a specialized and hardened AI runtime environment running as a container on Siemens IEDs deployed on the shopfloor. The AIIS receives the packaged model from AI MM and is responsible to load, execute, and monitor ML models close to the production lines.
Frontline Copilot | The greatest advancement of the year?? | Digital Factory 2023
🧠🗓️ Explainable production planning under partial observability in high-precision manufacturing
Conceptually, high-precision manufacturing is a sequence of production and measurement steps, where both kinds of steps require to use non-deterministic models to represent production and measurement tolerances. This paper demonstrates how to effectively represent these manufacturing processes as Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDP) and derive an offline strategy with state-of-the-art Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) approaches. In doing so, we face two challenges: a continuous observation space and explainability requirements from the side of the process engineers. As a result, we find that a tradeoff between the quantitative performance of the solution and its explainability is required. In a nutshell, the paper elucidates the entire process of explainable production planning: We design and validate a white-box simulation from expert knowledge, examine state-of-the-art POMDP solvers, and discuss our results from both the perspective of machine learning research and as an illustration for high-precision manufacturing practitioners.
🧠⏳ Multi-layer parallel transformer model for detecting product quality issues and locating anomalies based on multiple time‑series process data in Industry 4.0
Smart manufacturing systems typically consist of multiple machines with different processing durations. The continuous monitoring of these machines produces multiple time-series process data (MTPD), which have four characteristics: low data value density, diverse data dimensions, transmissible processing states, and complex coupling relationships. Using MTPD for product quality issue detection and rapid anomaly location can help dynamically adjust the control of smart manufacturing systems and improve manufacturing yield. This study proposes a multi-layer parallel transformer (MLPT) model for product quality issue detection and rapid anomaly location in Industry 4.0, based on proper modeling of the MTPD of smart manufacturing systems. The MLPT consists of multiple customized encoder models that correspond to the machines, each using a customized partition strategy to determine the token size. All encoders are integrated in parallel and output to the global multi-layer perceptron layer, which improves the accuracy of product quality issue detection and simultaneously locates anomalies (including key time steps and key sensor parameters) in smart manufacturing systems. An empirical study was conducted on a fan-out, panel-level package (FOPLP) production line. The experimental results show that the MLPT model can detect product quality issues more accurately than other methods. It can also rapidly realize anomalous locations in smart manufacturing systems.
Major factory investments and line commissions. Tracked in the Atlas.
🏭🇸🇬 GlobalFoundries opens $4 billion Singapore chip fabrication plant
GlobalFoundries opened a $4 billion semiconductor fabrication plant in Singapore on Tuesday, as part of a major global manufacturing expansion. The U.S chipmaker’s new 23,000 square meters (248,000 square feet) facility will be able to produce 450,000 300 millimetre wafers per year at full capacity, expected by 2025 to 2026, and will create 1,000 jobs, the company’s Singapore general manager Tan Yew Kong told reporters.
🏭🇺🇸 Gov. Pritzker and Gotion Announce New $2 Billion Electric Vehicle Battery Gigafactory in Kankakee County
Governor JB Pritzker and Gotion today joined local Illinois leaders and officials to announce the company’s decision to locate its new state-of-the-art $2 billion electric vehicle (EV) lithium battery manufacturing plant in Manteno. Bolstered by a REV Illinois (Reimagining Energy and Vehicles) incentive package and the new Invest in Illinois fund, Gotion’s decision to locate its new gigafactory in Illinois speaks to the state’s growing reputation as an EV manufacturing powerhouse and represents a significant step forward in growing its EV ecosystem and supply chain. The plant is expected to begin production in 2024.
🏭🇸🇪 ABB to invest $280 million in its European Robotics hub in Sweden
ABB today announced an investment of $280 million to expand its manufacturing footprint in Europe and build a new state-of-the-art ABB Robotics European Campus in Västerås, Sweden. The Campus will serve as the hub for ABB Robotics’ offering in Europe, providing customers with AI-enabled collaborative and industrial robots, as well as digital solutions to support flexible automation as part of the company’s “local for local” production strategy. Replacing the existing robotics facilities at the site, the new Campus is planned to open in late 2026.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
🔋 French battery manufacturing startup Verkor secures €2B
Grenoble, France-based Verkor, a battery manufacturing startup, announced on Thursday that it has secured more than €2B in funding. The funding injection comprises a Series C round of €850M, €600M in bank financing support from the European Investment Bank (EIB), and approximately €650M in French government grants, pending final validation by the European Commission.
The Verkor Gigafactory will have an initial production capacity of 16 GWh/year. Located in the port of Dunkirk, the Gigafactory is expected to be operational by 2025 and will create around 1,200 direct jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs.
Helsing raises €209m Series B to bolster Defence AI Capabilities for Democracies
Defence AI company Helsing today announced that it has raised €209m in a Series B funding round led by General Catalyst. Swedish group Saab is joining the round as a strategic investor, deepening the existing partnership.
Founded in 2021, Helsing is a new type of defence company, developing AI-based capabilities to protect our democracies. Helsing’s software-only approach and deep partnerships with industry have led to rapid market adoption across Europe. In June 2023, the German government selected Helsing and its partner Saab to provide the new AI-enabled electronic warfare capabilities for the upcoming update of the Eurofighter. In August 2023, Helsing and its consortium partners won the contract to provide the AI backbone for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme.
🔋 Lyten Raises $200M in Series B Equity Round
Lyten, Inc, a pioneer in 3D graphene decarbonizing supermaterials, announced it has raised $200 million as part of its over-subscribed Series B funding round to scale manufacturing and commercialize its first three product lines: Lithium-Sulfur batteries, lightweighted composites, and next generation IoT sensors.
The round is led by Prime Movers Lab, a venture capital firm focused on investments in breakthrough scientific startups and has $1.2B in assets under management. Prime Movers Lab is joined with significant participation from strategic investors and sector leaders Stellantis (previously announced), FedEx Corporation, Honeywell, and Walbridge Aldinger Company. Additional strategic, venture capital and individual investors make up the remainder of the round.
In June, Lyten announced the opening of its first Lithium-Sulfur battery automated pilot plant in San Jose, CA. They are on target to produce commercial cells by year-end 2023 and begin shipping to early adopting customers for revenue in early 2024. The remaining space on the pilot line is expected to be allocated before the end of the year, including allocation to Stellantis and additional auto OEMs for cell testing. Lyten intends to break ground on scaled-up 3D Graphene and Lithium-Sulfur battery manufacturing facilities in 2024 in the US. Lyten targets a fully domestic supply chain to deliver Lithium-Sulfur batteries with greater energy density than lithium-ion but without NMC (nickel, manganese, cobalt) or graphite.
♻️ UBQ Materials Raises $70 Million in Funding, Led by Eden Global Partners
UBQ Materials, climate tech developer of advanced materials made from waste, announced it has closed $70 million in funding, led by Eden Global Partners. Additional participants in the financing were return investors in the company, including TPG Rise Climate, TPG’s Rise Fund, Battery Ventures, and M&G’s Catalyst strategy.
The investment will support the company’s commercial, sales, and marketing scale up, as UBQ Materials continues its global expansion. This will include additional facilities in Europe and North America, alongside the impending opening of UBQ’s industrial-scale facility in Bergen Op Zoom, Netherlands. The new facility will have an annual production capacity of 80,000 tons of UBQ™, converting 104,600 metric tons of waste annually into a new raw material.
UBQ Materials’ bio-based thermoplastic, UBQ™, serves as a sustainable alternative to fossil-based plastics. UBQ Materials converts residual household waste diverted from landfills or incineration, including all organics, into an advanced thermoplastic material that is both climate-positive and highly recyclable. Leading industry brands have already integrated UBQ™ into durable and semi-durable products such as car parts, footwear, pallets, display stands, panels and planters, with customers including Mercedes-Benz, PepsiCo, and McDonald’s.
DetraPel Closes $7.6M Series A Funding Round Led by Material Impact
DetraPel, the advanced materials company that manufactures sustainable coatings announced the completion of its $7.6M Series A funding led by Material Impact. Additional investors in this round include multi-billion dollar packaging ink manufacturer, INX International, along with Touchdown Ventures, FitzGate Ventures, Boro Capital, Icebook Investments, and others. The newly raised funds will allow DetraPel to build on the market traction of the company’s recently rebranded industrial arm, Impermea Materials. DetraPel has also rebranded its consumer operations to ProofPlus. The capital is earmarked for scale up of its commercial coatings production to meet the demand of customers. Current industrial customers include four of the largest paper suppliers in the world and industry-leading consumer packaged goods companies who are aiming to offer premium and environmentally friendly packaging options to their increasingly eco-conscious customer bases.
Impermea Materials provides various industries including paper & paperboard packaging, textiles, healthcare, etc., with better performing products for everyday use with its patented protective coatings that are made from PFAS-free and Fluorine-Free, bio-based chemistries. The barrier coatings, which are being produced at scale, address the complex challenges facing businesses around product performance, while addressing environmental concerns by maintaining recyclability, repulpability & compostability. Recent pieces of legislation banning PFAS, or ‘forever chemicals’, in industrial manufacturing processes have fueled interest in alternative chemistries like those from Impermea to mimic the performance of PFAS without the harmful effects on the environment and human health.
🦾 Fabric teams with Maersk on Dallas robotic warehouse
Israeli robotics warehouse developer Fabric and logistics giant A.P. Moller - Maersk (Maersk) are setting up a 3,500-square-meter automated-fulfillment center in Dallas, Texas. The new facility, which will be powered by Fabric’s advanced robotic and software technology, features an AI-driven, automated e-commerce fulfillment solution in an urban environment that maximizes warehouse productivity while minimizing real estate footprint requirements.