Capturing this week's zeitgeist
Superconducting materials are back on the menu! Two recent technical papers were released with fervor:
- Researchers from China claim a possible Meissner effect near room temperature in copper-substituted lead apatite (similar to LK-99).
- American researchers reveal a superconductor with on-off switches. The material “is uniquely sensitive to outside stimuli, enabling the superconducting properties to be enhanced or suppressed at will. This enables new opportunities for energy-efficient switchable superconducting circuits” in applications such as data centers.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.
Value Based Product Development
People in “tech” like to talk “product market fit” and I think it does well in software as a service (SaaS) business, but it’s a dangerous philosophy to adopt in chemicals. Product market fit makes it sound like a product will work for everyone if you can just figure it out (e.g., Salesforce, Uber, Facebook), get scale to take advantage of network effects, and then iterate on new products with near zero production costs. To some degree this might be true for commodity chemicals, but the margins on commodities are often so narrow that your investors will be pissed off that you are trying to eke out a 30% gross margin business (how are you going to 10x that $5 million dollar check if you are getting such small profits? Scale? Tough sell I think).
The question is, do you have enough time to do value-based product development where it might take 5+ years from product launch (all technical and engineering work is finished) to make it a profitable business?
Intel GenAI For Yield
Diffusion networks are much better suited to the task. Real samples with added noise are used to train the model, which learns to denoise them. Crucially, diffusion networks in this application were able to replicate the long tails of the sample data distribution, thus providing accurate predictions of process yield.
In Intel’s research, SPICE parameters, used in the design phase as part of device simulation, are used as input for the deep learning model. Its output is the predicted electrical characteristics of the device as manufactured, or ETEST metrics. And the results show the model is capable of correctly predicting the distribution of ETEST metrics. Circuit yield is defined by the tails of this distribution. So, by correctly predicting the distribution of ETEST metrics, the model is correctly predicting yield.
The potential here is clear: better optimization of chip yields at the design stage means lower costs. Fewer mask respins, shorter development times, and ultimately higher yield would all be strong differentiators for foundries and design teams that can implement models into their PDK/design flows.
Could AI-powered defect detection boost battery manufacturing?
Liminal’s EchoStat technology sends non-destructive ultrasound pulses into battery cells, collecting information about their physical properties. It essentially creates an image of a cell, including any potential anomalies created by production errors. The hardware itself is modular and, according to Liminal, is easily integrated into factory lines.
Then comes the artificial intelligence layer. ML models analyze the information collected via ultrasound to predict cell life performance and quality, and detect specific defects and product failures. The result is a greatly shortened quality testing timeline that, according to Hsieh, takes feedback time from weeks down to mere minutes.
Feel The Hit: Pushing the boundaries of tennis racket manufacturing with 3D printing
Additive Appliances’ tennis racket dampener is additively manufactured using HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology, with the build volume of the 5200 platform said to be capable of processing thousands of parts at once. The parts, printed in BASF’s Ultrasint TPU material, measure between around 15 to 20 millimetres, and weigh less than 1 gram – up to 70% lighter than the minimal mass requirement of a traditional dampener.
For the design of the components, Additive Appliances has leant on a set of internally developed equations that are transformed into CAD designs through implicit modelling software, such as Altair’s Sulis platform, with the equations being validated using advanced simulation techniques like Optimad Engineering’s proprietary software, before extensive in-house testing is performed with vibrometers and sound spectrum analysers. Post-print, chemical smoothing can help to enhance the aesthetics of the part but has no impact on the mechanical properties and so it can be quicker and cheaper to forego this step.
Mitsubishi Electric Automation Demo: Anti-Clog (Pump Cleaning) with VFD
Robots Assemble Tools…for Robots
When assessing the company’s production line, OnRobot engineers recognized that numerous assembly processes involved the repetitive use of screws. One process, in particular, stood out: the mounting of Quick Changers to OnRobot’s various end-of-arm tooling products. The process is common across many OnRobot products. Regardless of the base product, the process requires the same four screws.
At OnRobot’s factory in Denmark, the initial automated screwdriving application focused on mounting the Quick Changer onto the company’s 2FG7, 3FG15 and VGC10 grippers. Soon, however, the application scope expanded to include the mounting of printed circuit board assemblies on the VGC10 gripper. In the near future, the company’s RG2 and RG6 grippers will be integrated into the automated Quick Changer assembly process, too. Additional subassembly tasks on the horizon.
A Passion for Innovation in High-Precision, Multi-Cavity Moldmaking
Boucherie’s lifeblood is innovation, developing new mold, machinery and automation technologies in a dedicated R&D facility. Our latest addition is a fully automated EDM line where several EDM machines are coordinated by a single linear robot, enabling the continuous production of electrodes and a 3D measuring system to verify the dimensions/quality of the electrodes. They are also integrating a high-speed milling machine to add functionality to this line, combining EDM and high-speed milling capabilities.
High precision & high speed automation to form needles for medical device manufacturing
Optimizing a Chemical Vapor Deposition Process for a High-Performance Tungsten Material
One of the key factors of the CVD process for Wf/W production is the tungsten deposition rate, which depends on the temperature and partial pressures involved. The tungsten deposition rate is hard to predict because it involves a lot of different parameters, including the surface temperature and partial pressure at the reaction sites, which depend on the reactor geometry, heater temperature, gas flow rates, and gas composition.
Leonard Raumann, Material Engineer at FZJ, designed an experimental single-fiber setup with very well-known boundary conditions. With the help of the COMSOL Multiphysics® software and a parameter study, he found the rate equations. He then used the equations to model the Wf/W production with multiple fibers. For this, Raumann applied COMSOL Multiphysics® again, followed by a parameter optimization. The resulting parameters were also applied in reality with success.
Scaling up the production process for tungsten-fiber-reinforced tungsten means new possibilities for fusion power. Before this research, producing one layer of the tungsten material took around five hours, but by optimizing the CVD process parameters, it can take just 30 minutes to produce one layer of Wf/W — which is 10 times faster. By optimizing production processes for high-performance materials for fusion reactors, we can ensure that fusion power is both possible and cost efficient.
Product inspection of coffee beans
New Product Introduction
Highlighting new and innovative products and services
Honeycomb-shaped bladeless generators for urban wind harvesting
Greentech innovator Katrick Technologies has concluded the first stage of the Alpha testing phase of its novel wind power generation technology. Developed in partnership with The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and tested at the University of Strathclyde, the prototype of the company’s Wind Panel has yielded impressive results during this latest testing phase, demonstrating the technology’s potential as a disruptive innovation in the greentech sphere.
Katrick Technologies’ Wind Panel is a market-first wind power generation technology that addresses the limitations of conventional wind turbines by capturing a far wider range of wind speeds and frequencies at lower levels through its unique design. The panel features channelling ducts containing aerofoils that oscillate independently when exposed to the kinetic energy of wind and these mechanical oscillations are then converted to energy.
Apple's battery supplier TDK claims to develop new silicon batteries
TDK Corp, a key supplier for Apple Inc., has unveiled a breakthrough in smartphone battery technology by introducing small-sized lithium-ion batteries with silicon electrodes. TDK began shipping these innovative batteries in the first half of 2023.
As the sole mass-producer of silicon-carbon batteries for smartphones, TDK has generated considerable interest, especially from handset manufacturers aiming to differentiate their products in a saturated market through ultra-thin devices with higher-capacity batteries. The new batteries are reported to offer 10 per cent more capacity than conventional graphite anode batteries, with the potential to increase capacity by 40 per cent or more, according to industry studies.
How governments are shaping the future industrial landscape.
🇺🇸 Biden administration announces $162 million to expand computer chip factories in Colorado and Oregon
The Biden administration is providing $162 million to Microchip Technology to support the domestic production of computer chips — the second funding announcement tied to a 2022 law designed to revive U.S. semiconductor manufacturing. The incentives include $90 million to improve a plant in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and $72 million to expand a factory in Gresham, Oregon, the Commerce Department said. The investments would enable Microchip Technology Inc., which is based in Chandler, Arizona, to triple its domestic production and reduce its dependence on foreign factories.
🇺🇸 Money Pours Into New Fabs And Facilities
National security is a major concern to certain governments, as evidenced by the U.S. banning the export of advanced chips to China, and China retaliating by banning the export of key minerals.
However, the primary concerns for the semiconductor industry are the talent shortage, climate threats, and supply chain issues. “These are three global challenges,” said Manocha. “No single company, no single country, and no single CEO can solve them. When I was in corporate life, I used to say, ‘Keep the government out of my business.’ But now I’m saying, ‘We need governments to be part of the business to solve these global challenges.’”
Selected government/industry investments:
- Under the CHIPS Act, the U.S. Department of Commerce authorized $3 billion for advanced packaging, including a piloting facility.
- BAE Systems received the first CHIPS Act funding award — an initial $35 million to modernize its Microelectronics Center and increase production of chips for fighter jets.
- The U.S. Department of Defense awarded $35 million funding to GlobalFoundries for tools to produce at-scale 200mm GaN-on-Sic chips.
- The EU and Belgium invested $1.6 billion in imec to expand its clean room test facility.
- GF and ST’s €7.5 billion 300mm fab was funded by France and the EU Chips Act.
- The Korean government is backing a semiconductor mega cluster in Yongin.
- TSMC, Bosch, Infineon, and NXP’s $11 billion joint venture in Germany was planned under the framework of the EU Chips Act.
🇿🇦 Why Every Western Automaker Is Visiting This Remote Part of South Africa
Manganese Metal Co., based in the sleepy town of Mbombela, is the largest of just a handful of refiners of battery-grade manganese located outside China. Used mostly for making steel, manganese is increasingly replacing more expensive and harder-to-source minerals such as cobalt and nickel in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars, smartphones and laptops.
South Africa is the world’s No. 1 producer of manganese ore, but China refines more than 90% of battery-grade manganese. That dominance has stoked concerns among Western governments—including the U.S.—about their dependence on Beijing as they work to decarbonize their transport and energy systems.
🇺🇸🇨🇦 US FDA to allow Florida to import cheaper drugs from Canada
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday authorized Florida to directly import prescription drugs from Canada, making it the first state to get approval for a plan aimed at bringing cheaper medicines to Americans. Before Florida can import drugs, it needs to submit more drug-specific information for the FDA’s review and approval, and evidence that the drugs it seeks to import have been tested to comply with FDA’s standards, the agency said.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
JJC TEC Completed the E Round Financing, AGF Invested
Beijing JJC Technology Co., Ltd. (referred to as “JJC”) completed the E-round financing. The investment is led by SDIC Fund and Seekers Capital, followed by China Venture Capital Fund, Jingguoguan Equity Investment Fund, Starlight Capital, and Asia Green Fund, and existing investors Summitview Capital and China Merchants Capital. The fund will go towards the continuous R&D of the Smart Wrench and Clusters System. This investment is in line with COP28 efforts and the Oil & Gas Decarbonization Charter that aims to accelerate climate action.
JJC focuses on the R&D, manufacturing, and high-end technical services of Smart Wrench and its system in the petroleum industry. JJC insists on independent innovation and has developed multiple products such as Smart Wrench, Mechanical Seal Washpipe, Hydraulic Power Unit, Hydraulic Elevator and Hydraulic Power Slip Handler, etc., and built the “Tripro® Walker” Drilling Rig Automation System, providing comprehensive smart drilling solutions in the petroleum drilling and production industry, helping China gradually realizing domestic alternative solutions in the high-end manufacturing field of petroleum equipment and ensuring national energy security.
Vita Inclinata Technologies Closes $44M Round
Vita Inclinata Technologies, an innovator in intelligent lifting hardware and software for rescue crews and other field safety applications, announced today that it secured $44 million in funding from 3&1 Fund, a global leader in IP (Intellectual Property) based financing solutions. Utilizing a debt structure, 3&1 Fund provided a compelling alternative to traditional equity-based Venture Capital financing which will boost Vita Inclinata Technologies’ expansion initiatives.
Aerones receives Grant from EU's Innovation Fund
The company specializes in robot-enabled turbine inspection and maintenance services, and plans to use the Innovation Fund grant of €4,416,000 to produce and deploy world’s first wind turbine blade leading edge repair robot sets. Total budget of the project is €7,360,000. Using unique patented robotic technology, crucial tasks are performed 3x – 6x faster, with up to 10x less idle stay days than using conventional methods.
Leading edge erosion is among the most common turbine blade issues. As wind turbines become larger, blade rotation speed at the tip of the blade can exceed 360 km/h. At these speeds, even rain can cause the erosion of the leading edge, and reduce the turbine’s efficiency. Even a small amount of erosion can result in a significant reduction of annual energy production.
Element3 secures seed funding for lithium extraction from oil and gas wastewater
Element3, a company specializing in extracting lithium from oil and gas wastewater, announced that it has closed its seed investment round. Major investors include EIC Rose Rock, other oil and gas family offices, and other strategic partners. The financial terms were not disclosed.
The funding will enable Element3 to accelerate the development and testing of its patent-pending Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology, and plans to deploy its technology in field operations by early 2024.
Intel spins out AI software firm with backing from DigitalBridge
Intel is forming a new independent company around its artificial intelligence software efforts with backing from digital-focused asset manager DigitalBridge Group (DBRG.N) and other investors. The new entity, which will not be publicly traded and will be called Articul8 AI (pronounced “Articulate AI”), is an outgrowth of work on corporate AI technology that Intel initially carried out with Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Arch Systems Announces Strategic Collaboration with Jabil for Global Electronics Manufacturing Data and Analytics Solution
Arch®, the leading provider of machine data and analytics for manufacturing, is pleased to announce its three-year strategic collaboration with Jabil Inc., a leading global manufacturing solutions provider. The agreement, effective from September 1, 2023, to September 1, 2026, solidifies a long-term international collaboration between the two industry leaders.
Jabil selected Arch Systems for its unrivaled expertise in manufacturing data, offering a seamless solution that adds key functionality and enhances critical points within Jabil’s internal system. The strategic collaboration spans four continents, twelve countries, and several hundred production lines front-to-back, from surface mount technology (SMT) through backend assembly and test.