Capturing this week's zeitgeist
Innovation thrives on calculated risk-taking, and it is this spirit of adventure that has been the impetus for launching new manufacturing and design facilities around the world. While new factories are going up in record numbers let’s not forget the milestones for facilities that have endured:
- Toyota’s CALTY Design Research: 50 Years of Design and Innovation
- ABB Factory Celebrates 50 Years at the Forefront of Sustainable Analytical Technologies
- Airbus marks milestone in growth project adding 1,000 jobs in Mobile (check out our A320 supply chain map)
Maintaining reliable operations has never been more valuable, with an outage lasting for an eight-hour working shift would cost one million dollars as estimated by a recent ABB survey. Manufacturers have continued interest in outcome-based maintenance agreements and strategies such as robotics as a service to boost business success.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.
Amazon Introducing Warehouse Overhaul With Robotics to Speed Deliveries
Amazon is introducing an array of new artificial intelligence and robotics capabilities into its warehouse operations that will reduce delivery times and help identify inventory more quickly. The revamp will change the way Amazon moves products through its fulfillment centers with new AI-equipped sortation machines and robotic arms. It is also set to alter how many of the company’s vast army of workers do their jobs. Amazon says its new robotics system, named Sequoia after the giant trees native to California’s Sierra Nevada region, is designed for both speed and safety. Humans are meant to work alongside new machines in a way that should reduce injuries, the company says.
Amazon said it would also start to test a bipedal robot named Digit in its operations. Digit, which is designed by Agility Robotics, can move, grasp and handle items, and will initially be used by the company to pick up and move empty tote containers.
Digital Robotics Twin in Omniverse
To excel at engineering design, generative AI must learn to innovate, study finds
“Deep generative models (DGMs) are very promising, but also inherently flawed,” says study author Lyle Regenwetter, a mechanical engineering graduate student at MIT. “The objective of these models is to mimic a dataset. But as engineers and designers, we often don’t want to create a design that’s already out there.” He and his colleagues make the case that if mechanical engineers want help from AI to generate novel ideas and designs, they will have to first refocus those models beyond “statistical similarity.”
For instance, if DGMs can be built with other priorities, such as performance, design constraints, and novelty, Ahmed foresees “numerous engineering fields, such as molecular design and civil infrastructure, would greatly benefit. By shedding light on the potential pitfalls of relying solely on statistical similarity, we hope to inspire new pathways and strategies in generative AI applications outside multimedia.”
Eureka! NVIDIA Research Breakthrough Puts New Spin on Robot Learning
A new AI agent developed by NVIDIA Research that can teach robots complex skills has trained a robotic hand to perform rapid pen-spinning tricks — for the first time as well as a human can. The Eureka research, published today, includes a paper and the project’s AI algorithms, which developers can experiment with using NVIDIA Isaac Gym, a physics simulation reference application for reinforcement learning research. Isaac Gym is built on NVIDIA Omniverse, a development platform for building 3D tools and applications based on the OpenUSD framework. Eureka itself is powered by the GPT-4 large language model.
Rivelin Robotics CEO hails Hardware as a Service as ‘transformative concept’
With the increasing use of automated hardware and connected manufacturing solutions, together with the software that enables it, the potential impact on productivity, and adopting a flexible revenue approach makes HaaS a significant paradigm shift. A flexible revenue approach is a defining feature of HaaS, offering organisations a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model instead of the traditional CapEx hardware purchasing model. This offers manufacturing organisations, regardless of their size, several advantages.
As technology continues to evolve, HaaS business models can support organisations striving to remain competitive and agile in an ever-changing world. Think of the Rivelin solution as an OpEx. Think of it as your new 12-month labour contract.
Increase manufacturing processes by 25% with AI, Opcenter and Retrocausual a Siemens Partner
This New 3D Printable Wonder Material Could Help Propel NASA’s Future Missions Into Deep Space
Recognizing its potential, engineers with NASA’s Reactive Additive Manufacturing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (RAMFIRE) project decided to see whether aluminum could be engineered in such a way that it could become a viable material for use in 3D printing rocket components. The result was A6061-RAM2, a novel aluminum variant that, when paired with a specialized powder in a process known as laser powder-directed energy deposition, or LP-DED, succeeded in producing the RAMFIRE rocket nozzles.
Although conventional nozzles may require hundreds, or even close to a thousand small, conjoined parts, the RAMFIRE nozzles are single-piece constructions, which helps to significantly reduce manufacturing and assembly time.
Notorious DLE: The lithium extraction technologies gunning for the crown
Instead of concentrating lithium by evaporating brine in large pools, DLE technologies aim to extract about 90% or more lithium through different methods, the most common of these being sorption (also known as adsorption), ion exchange, and solvent extraction. But investors still have a lot to learn when it comes to DLE, with the term commonly used to capture technologies that are still in the R&D phase.
“The lithium market is still really small, we’re up to 1 million tonnes of global lithium production, and it takes longer to build these projects than it does a hard rock mine. But a lot more are being built so there will be an exponential rise in the production from these projects in years to come.”
How governments are shaping the future industrial landscape.
🇬🇧 UK Government invests £200M in green Projects for zero-emission HGVs
The UK Government announced a £200 million investment across four innovative green projects to roll out up to 370 zero-emission HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) and help lead road transport towards net zero. Delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, the initiative will also provide around 57 refuelling and electric charging sites. Four successful zero-emission HGV and infrastructure demonstrator projects will receive a share of the £200 million funding.
🇺🇸 GF Awarded $35M from U.S. Government to Accelerate Manufacturing of Next-Gen GaN Chips
GlobalFoundries (GF) has been awarded $35 million in federal funding from the U.S. government to accelerate the manufacturing of GF’s differentiated GaN on silicon semiconductors at its facility in Essex Junction, Vt. This funding brings GF closer to large-scale production of GaN chips, which are unique in their ability to handle high voltages and temperatures. These chips are positioned to enable game-changing performance and efficiency in 5G and 6G cellular communications for infrastructure and handsets, automotive and industrial IoT, as well as power grids and other critical infrastructure.
🇺🇸🇨🇳 US-China: tightening the screws with export controls while granting leeway to some
The US has been consistently enforcing export controls against China for years. Companies like Huawei and SMIC, the country’s largest chip manufacturer, were among the first to feel the bite of US controls. That took a turn in October 2022, when the US government decided to opt for a more comprehensive set of measures aimed at crippling the entire Chinese semiconductor industry.
The updated rule, said to be in the final stages of review, will include enhanced scrutiny for Chinese companies attempting to bypass export restrictions by rerouting shipments through other countries. Additionally, Chinese chip design companies will be included in a trade restriction list, requiring foreign manufacturers to obtain a US license before fulfilling orders for these firms.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
NVIDIA Partners With Foxconn to Build Factories and Systems for the AI Industrial Revolution
Foxconn will integrate NVIDIA technology to develop a new class of data centers powering a wide range of applications — including digitalization of manufacturing and inspection workflows, development of AI-powered electric vehicle and robotics platforms, and a growing number of language-based generative AI services.
Working closely with NVIDIA, Foxconn is expected to build a large number of systems based on NVIDIA CPUs, GPUs and networking for its global customer base, which is looking to create and operate their own AI factories, optimized with NVIDIA AI Enterprise software. Among the key NVIDIA technologies Foxconn is using to create these custom designs are NVIDIA HGX™ reference designs featuring eight NVIDIA H100 Tensor Core GPUs per system, NVIDIA GH200 Superchips, NVIDIA OVX™ reference designs and NVIDIA networking. With these systems, Foxconn customers can leverage NVIDIA accelerated computing to deliver generative AI services as well as use simulation to speed up the training of autonomous machines, including industrial robots and self-driving cars.
Skeleton Technologies raises €108M in funding round led by Siemens and Marubeni
Estonian-founded fast energy storage firm Skeleton Technologies has raised a €108 million equity and debt funding round with investment from Siemens Financial Services (SFS) and Marubeni Corporation, including other investors. The fresh capital will forward the development and manufacturing of Skeleton’s high-power battery technology – the SuperBattery and through partnerships will automate and digitise Skeleton’s upcoming factory in Markranstädt, Germany.
Cosmos Innovation Emerges from Stealth with $19.7 Million to Accelerate Solar Transition to Perovskite Silicon Tandem with Industry-First Self-Learning AI Fab Platform
Cosmos Innovation, an AI-first company building next-generation perovskite silicon tandem (PST) solar cell technology, today announced raising $19.7 million in total funding. The funding will support the company’s fundamentally different approach to developing perovskite silicon tandem solar cell technology. The funding coincides with Cosmos Innovation’s unveiling of Mobius, the industry’s pioneering AI recipe optimization platform. Mobius has been demonstrated across various sectors, including solar, silicon carbide, advanced data center chips and advanced packaging. This platform fuels Cosmos Innovation’s ambitious endeavor: construction of the world’s first self-learning fab in the solar and semiconductor space.
The Series A round was led by Xora Innovation, an early-stage, deep-tech investment platform of Temasek, a global investment company headquartered in Singapore. Other investors joining the round include Innovation Endeavors, which led the seed round; Two Sigma Ventures; DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis; noted MIT professor Tomaso Poggio, a founder of computational neuroscience; Richard Socher, leading natural language processing (NLP) researcher, CEO of You.com and managing partner at AIX Ventures; and Western Technology Investments, one of the leading venture debt funds in Silicon Valley.
Ai Build raises $8.5M Series A funding for additive manufacturing software
Additive manufacturing software startup, Ai Build, has raised a Series A round of $8.5 million led by IQ Capital, bringing the company’s funding to $13.5 million. Ai Build will use the funding to accelerate its product roadmap, allowing it to onboard more customers with higher automation and AI capabilities. Investment will also enable the opening of a subsidiary in the US, and continued European expansion.
It partners with major manufacturing firms, including Boeing, to expand the use of additive manufacturing in large-scale industrial applications, such as specialised tooling and end-use components in aerospace, automotive, and energy sectors. Customer benefits include a 65 percent decrease in failed production attempts and a 90 percent increase in overall build efficiency.
Leucine reaps $7M in series A funds to advance AI digital twin platform for manufacturing
Leucine reeled in $7 million in series A funding that will be used scale up its AI-generated digital twin platform designed to help drug manufacturers more easily navigate the complex landscape of regulatory compliance. The funding round was led by Ecolab with participation from existing investors Pravega Ventures, Axilor Ventures and Techstars.
The New York City-based company, which was founded in 2019, is focused on using digital twins in its Compliance Cloud platform to alleviate drug development workflow bottlenecks caused by paper-based records and legacy systems.
Soluterials’ innovative and sustainable aluminium material revolutionises the industry
German start-up Soluterials has raised a seven-figure sum in the first closing of its seed round to accelerate the market launch of its innovative and sustainable high performance pure aluminium material SoluteriAL. SoluteriAL reduces the carbon footprint and offers superior properties compared to conventional aluminium metal or alloys, opening new opportunities for a wide range of industries. Backed by High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and three business angels, the company will scale up production and expand its team.
SoluteriAL extends the properties of pure aluminium, such as high electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance and low weight, with high mechanical strength and high creep resistance.
aPriori Receives Growth Investment from Vista Credit Partners for its Manufacturing Insights Platform
aPriori today announced a growth investment from Vista Credit Partners, a subsidiary of Vista Equity Partners and strategic financing partner focused on the enterprise software, data, and technology markets. The funding will be used to support continued innovation and meet growing demand for aPriori’s cloud-based solution, which empowers manufacturers and product designers to accurately estimate, manage, and optimize production costs and sustainability. Leading global manufacturers including Carrier, Boeing, Danfoss, GE Appliances, Thales, Vestas, Navistar, and Toyota trust aPriori to drive product design efficiency and cost savings.