Capturing this week's zeitgeist
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This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.
Industrial Automation Software Management on AWS—Best Practices for Operational Excellence
Operational and maintenance tasks can become complex, and change control becomes challenging as the number of PLCs and robotics or other automation systems increases. Problems arise when the right version and right configuration of the code is not found. While code and configuration management is a standard DevOps practice for software development, these practices are not as common in the world of industrial automation, primarily due to lack of good tooling. These challenges can now be solved through systematic, secure, and easily accessible solutions in the AWS cloud.
One such solution is Copia Automation’s Git-based source control (Git is an open-source DevOps tool for source code management). Copia Automation brings the power of a modern source control system (specifically, Git) to industrial automation. The Copia solution is deployed in Amazon’s own AWS account. In this type of deployment model, Amazon is responsible for managing and configuring its own infrastructure needed to run Copia’s software.
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Drone Powerline Inspection
While the quest for operational efficiency is driving drone powerline inspection adoption, the true innovation lies in what happens after the data capture with AI/ML data processing. To realize the full benefits of drone powerline inspection, computer vision AI/ML algorithms are utilized to automatically analyze the massive quantity of raw visual image data to classify assets and identify predetermined defect conditions. This dramatically improves the efficiency of drone powerline inspection programs by flagging images with detected issues for further MI (maintenance inspector) review, saving time and reducing inspector fatigue.
Machine learning is another critical element of inspection automation. When the AI model is retrained with additional annotated imagery showing new environmental conditions and equipment, it learns, improving its algorithms and becoming more adept at classifying assets and identifying failure conditions. This enables the system to become more efficient over time, adapting to new patterns of wear, new component types and evolving changes to the transmission network.
Debug, Checkout and Startup
After months of developing processes, creating drawings and integrating components, your automated assembly machine is finally complete. All that needs to be done now is hit the start button, right? Not so fast. Debug, checkout and startup come first. “Debug” means to search for and eliminate malfunctioning elements. “Checkout” refers to the test of a machine or system for proper functioning. “Startup” is the act of initiating a production process on the plant floor.
“Debug, checkout and startup are the most important parts of any automation project,” claims Sean Dotson, PE, former president and chief technology officer of systems integrator RND Automation. “I’ve seen some companies that cut corners, thinking everything is good enough just so they can get a machine out the door on time. Saying ‘we’ll fix it at the customer’s site’ is a recipe for disaster. A machine like that will never be 100 percent correct. “Debug is what gets you to the factory acceptance test,” explains Dotson. “If a machine works at that stage, then it should work when it arrives on the floor of the customer’s facility.
Worldwide Demand for Forged Parts Spurs Drive to Rebuild Equipment
“Rebuilding is often the fastest, most economical means to get worn or mothballed equipment back into production when purchasing new equipment may not be feasible. As such, it can bridge a gap in production before new equipment can be purchased, manufactured and delivered,” said Justin Wildfire, Rebuild Engineer, Products and Part Sales, Ajax-CECO-Erie Press (ACE), an equipment supplier in North America, with over a century of experience in custom designing and building presses and forming machines.
Rebuilding is reconstructing a machine by removing all its parts and repairing or replacing them with OEM components to return them to manufacturer specifications. This can include replacing high-wear items such as bearings, bushings, seals and liners and inspecting and repairing the frame.
According to Wildfire, critical engineering design data is lost when an independent rebuilder reverse-engineers a part, resulting in inferior part construction and premature wear or component failure. “Often they are rebuilding a machine without truly understanding the original design intent or the loads that will be placed on the parts and equipment,” he said. Without the benefit of the original design specifications, there is the risk of a wrong or sub-optimal part being used in the rebuild. Given the loads placed on a forger, even minor material changes can significantly affect equipment longevity.
Toyota takes on Tesla’s gigacasting in battle for carmaking’s future
Some car executives and analysts expect Tesla’s process — which Musk calls “gigacasting” — to set a new benchmark for building vehicles, replacing the vaunted Toyota Production System based on just-in-time manufacturing efficiency. The way Tesla is making cars “is quickly moving to become an industry standard”, said one senior executive at a European automaker.
For the moment, Toyota says it wants more than half of its 2030 sales target to be made up of EVs using its new modular architecture, which allows it to produce multiple different models, that share key components, on the same platforms. Yuzawa said: “Gigacasting is going to reshape the whole underbody supply chain network.”
Apple promotes commercialization of self-developed batteries in 2025
Apple aims to develop a whole new battery that has significantly increased performance than ever before by participating in direct development from the materials that make up the battery, such as bipolar and cathode. Apple plans to innovate from this material and create a battery that has never been commercialized around the world. Apple’ industry official said “As the mobile user experience expands with the metaverse and mixed reality (MR), etc., the demand for high-performance batteries increases”, “Apple seems to be holding the ball from the material development stage to boost battery performance ” said.
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🇯🇵 Japan Set to Earmark $13 Billion for Chips in Extra Budget
Japan is set to allocate almost ¥2 trillion ($13.3 billion) in an extra budget to boost its capacity to make and secure semiconductors at home. Of the total, about ¥760 billion will go into a fund to support the mass production of chips, money that could be used for supporting a second Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. factory in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan. About ¥640 billion will be used for another fund to support research of cutting-edge chips, according to the people. That fund could be used for Japan’s homegrown chip venture Rapidus Corp., they added. About ¥570 billion will be assigned to a separate fund to enhance the stable supply of chips to Japan, they said.
🇨🇦 NGen Launches $55M in New AI for Manufacturing Projects
Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), has announced $19 million in Global Innovation Cluster funding for 12 new AI for manufacturing projects valued at a total of $55 million. NGen’s AI for Manufacturing Challenge was designed to build advanced manufacturing capacity and enhance the commercialization of artificial intelligence and machine learning innovations across manufacturing sectors in Canada.
🇺🇸 Why Build a New Factory in the US? Logistics, Not Politics
Siemens is almost as excited about the guts of the Fort Worth facility as it is about the demand that supports the additional capacity. The company has digitally simulated the entire process of setting up a new plant, including the construction design, the layout of the factory floor and the product development but also the day-to-day manufacturing workflows. “We optimize it, we shift it around and when we like it — not before that — we start bringing in excavating machines on the site or putting machines into it,” Busch said. This lets Siemens get the construction right the first time — which is important at a time of high inflation — but it also sets up a virtuous cycle of productivity improvements whereby plant managers can test out tweaks digitally and carry them out with much less equipment downtime, and sensor-packed equipment can yield insights from the field that spark yet more tweaks.
Digital simulation can be game changer — for Siemens itself and for its customers. For example, when a beverage manufacturer rolls out a new product, the viscosity of the liquid will affect the speed at which it can run its filling machines. Traditionally, this was just a trial and error process that resulted in a lot of spilled beverages. “What we can do is we can simulate it — the viscosity and whatnot, the whole plant. And then you just have a new mixture and you run it seamlessly without fooling around,” Busch said. It’s almost like a video game but for a factory — and much more sophisticated.
🇩🇪 Continental Backs Digital Factory for Auto Parts Production
Continental is leading a consortium of production specialists in a bid to make automotive component production a fully digital process. The Tier 1 supplier is one of eight IT and process optimization companies, universities and specialist start-ups taking part in a project dubbed “Digitalization of the Industrialization Process in the Automotive and Supplier Industries” (DIAZI) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.
The DIAZI project promotes the notion of the “digital factory” which could see new production plants started up virtually before commissioning. Employing artificial intelligence, this step could make it possible to continuously improve processes, make accurate productivity predictions and reduce downtime owing to in-depth data analysis of all machines involved. In this way, production plants of a company, as well as suppliers’ production sites, can be digitally connected for fast, scalable and high-quality production.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
Niron Magnetics Secures $33M from Leading Automotive Manufacturers to Meet Growing Demand for Rare Earth-Free Magnets
Niron Magnetics, the company pioneering the world’s first high-performance, rare earth-free permanent magnets, today announced it has raised $33 million in additional funding, with new investments from leading automotive manufacturers, GM Ventures and Stellantis Ventures, and previous local investors, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and the University of Minnesota (UMN), amongst other investors. This new financing will allow Niron to expand its current pilot production facilities and scale manufacturing capacity for exclusive customer programs and initial sales of its Clean Earth Magnet®.
Permanent magnets are essential components in all automobiles, fundamental to audio systems, fuel pumps, air circulation, electric vehicle (EV) drivetrains, and much more. As more cars are bought around the globe and demand surges for EVs, so does the demand for more stable and sustainable alternatives to rare-earth materials. This new round of funding will advance the commercialization of Niron’s Iron Nitride-based Clean Earth Magnets, which are environmentally sustainable, globally manufacturable, and made from stable supply inputs. Further, Niron’s alternative to rare-earth magnets promises improved temperature stability compared to other options currently available on the market, which is critical for automotive use.
Frenetic to open silicon valley office after $12M Series A round for magnetic components production
Frenetic’s $12 million Series A round was led by Kibo Ventures, with existing investors 42Cap, Join Capital, Bankinter, Bonsai, and Big Sur participating in the round. The company specialises in the simulation, design, and production of high-frequency magnetic components for any and all devices that require power. With its offer, Frenetic is essentially eliminating the industry’s age-old standard of trial and error when it comes to the crucial component of all power supplies, magnetics.
Finnish startup SpinDrive raises €3.8M Series A for affordable, energy-efficient industrial bearings
SpinDrive, a Finnish company providing affordable active magnetic bearings for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), has secured a €3.8 million Series A funding round. The round was led by US-based, hardware companies-focused investor Rhapsody Venture Partners, with existing investors Innovestor from Finland and Born2Grow from Germany also participating.
SpinDrive’s frictionless bearings are smaller, more energy efficient, and more affordable than its competitors. The bearings work through magnetic levitation, where there is no contact between rotating and stationary parts. No friction means no bearing maintenance for up to 20 years, even in high-speed applications, meaning high rotational speeds and energy efficiency without the risk of equipment downtime or maintenance breaks.
Kvanted Ventures Launches Nordic Industrial Technology Fund
Kvanted Ventures, a Helsinki, Finland-based early-stage investment firm, announced its first fund of €70m. Founded by Maria Wasastjerna, Eerik Paasikivi, and Axel Ahlström, Kvanted focuses on early-stage industrial technology startups in Northern Europe. The firm invests in both hardware and software alike, as well as service companies developing new solutions for the industrial value chain, with a focus on industrial automation, sustainability and supply chain resilience. The fund will invest in around 20 companies, with initial investments ranging from €0.5 to €3m, and a longer-than-average investment term to align with the longer development cycles in the industrial domain.
Rockwell Automation Makes Strategic Investment in Momenta Fund
Rockwell Automation, Inc., the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and digital transformation, today announced its investment in Momenta’s Industry 5.0 Fund, a venture capital and value creation fund that supports entrepreneurs focused on resilient, sustainable, and human-centric industrial operations, providing Rockwell early access to innovative technology that has the potential to disrupt industrial markets and increase sustainability.
Switzerland-based Momenta launched the $100 million fund in cooperation with the EU Commission to support start-up companies working to advance the Commission’s Industry 5.0 initiative. The initiative highlights research and innovation as drivers for a transition to a sustainable, human-centric, and resilient industry, moving the focus from shareholder value to stakeholder value. It puts people at the center by empowering them with information and technology to make decisions with clarity and confidence. Aimed at early growth-stage innovators driving the digital transformation of energy, manufacturing, smart spaces, and supply chains, the Industry 5.0 Fund will deliver venture capital investment and direct value-creation to entrepreneurs in Europe and North America.