Capturing this week's zeitgeist
Not everything can be shipped economically, especially industrial goods. One Londoner figured out how to move a brewhouse from California to London.
A brewhouse—a four-vessel 50–beer barrel (50bbl) system that included six fermenters, brite beer tanks, water tanks, a gristmill and more
That reminded me of the time a few years ago, after a fire at one of their suppliers, Ford had to use a huge plane to move 19 die tools to get their F-150 line back up and running.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.
Briquetting Manufacturer Tools Up for Faster Turnaround Times
Briquettes are dense blocks created by compressing certain materials. For instance, charcoal and water softener salt are prepared as briquettes using charcoal dust and sodium chloride, respectively. These blocks can be compressed in cantilevered removable cutting rolls like those machined by K.R. Komarek, a Wood Dale, Illinois, company whose founder, Gustav Komarek, patented briquetting processes in the early 1900s to make coal less dusty and easier to transport.
With a wide variety of briquette designs, sizes and materials, machining these rolls is a demanding task for machine tools and, in particular, tooling. To overhaul a lengthy, hands-on process, Komarek paired a Mazak turn-mill machine with Ceratizit ISO-P-grade tooling to reduce production cycles and eliminate an arduous hand-grinding process.
Employees who formerly would have been tackling manual tasks on the briquetting roll production line can now work in Komarek’s reconditioning and repair department. These new processes also eliminated the potential for human error from hand-ground pockets, and by previewing milling paths through simulation features within Mastercam, Komarek is seeing less than a thousandth of an inch of variance in pockets. Tool life has also become much more predictable.
What Progress Has There Been In Industrial Robots?
Robots, separated from the software and sensors that give them perception and intelligence, aren’t terribly complex (conceptually at least). They’re a collection of control systems, motors, and gearboxes mounted to lever arms that make it possible to move things around in particular ways in 3D space. They can have different end effectors mounted to them for tasks like grasping, welding, or painting. One possible axis of improvement for robotic hardware is cost: if robots get cheaper over time, it becomes possible to cost-effectively use them in more locations.
So, overall, robots have fallen substantially in cost since the 1980s, while simultaneously getting more precise. A robot with a 1-meter reach and 10 kg payload capacity would cost anywhere from 2 to 3 times as much in the 1980s as it does today, even before considering the rise of cheap Chinese robot arms, which seem poised to make prices fall even more. And the modern industrial robot is roughly 100 times more accurate, and far more capable at smooth, continuous motion, than robots in the past.
NJM turnkey integrated solid dose line
The Future of Robotics: Robotics Foundation Models and the Role of Data
One key factor that has enabled the success of generative AI in the digital world is a foundation model trained on a tremendous amount of internet-scale data. However, a comparable dataset did not previously exist in the physical world to train a robotics foundation model. That dataset had to be built from the ground up — composed of vast amounts of “warehouse-scale” real-world data and synthetic data.
Covariant’s robotics foundation model relies on this mix of data. General image data, paired with text data, is used to help the model learn a foundational semantic understanding of the visual world. Real-world warehouse production data, augmented with simulation data, is used to refine its understanding of specific tasks needed in warehouse operations, such as object identification, 3D understanding, grasp prediction, and place prediction.
DiffuseBot: Breeding Soft Robots With Physics-Augmented Generative Diffusion Models
Nature evolves creatures with a high complexity of morphological and behavioral intelligence, meanwhile computational methods lag in approaching that diversity and efficacy. Co-optimization of artificial creatures’ morphology and control in silico shows promise for applications in physical soft robotics and virtual character creation; such approaches, however, require developing new learning algorithms that can reason about function atop pure structure. In this paper, we present DiffuseBot, a physics-augmented diffusion model that generates soft robot morphologies capable of excelling in a wide spectrum of tasks. DiffuseBot bridges the gap between virtually generated content and physical utility by (i) augmenting the diffusion process with a physical dynamical simulation which provides a certificate of performance, and ii) introducing a co-design procedure that jointly optimizes physical design and control by leveraging information about physical sensitivities from differentiable simulation. We showcase a range of simulated and fabricated robots along with their capabilities.
Intel® AFS and Digital Twins: Optimizing Factory Performance
Today, the ever-increasing technological capabilities of computers equipped with high performance processors mean we can digitize the concept of modeling, raising it to new, dynamic levels. Now, instead of simple physical replicas, we can build Digital Twins (DTs)—data sets that simulate not only the physical attributes of entities (such as shape, color, and size) but also more abstract characteristics (such as strength, elasticity, conductivity, and many more). Plus, once created, Digital Twins of different objectives can be combined into Digital Twin systems, their behavior mimicking that of their real-world counterparts. That behavior can be recorded, analyzed, tested, and revised cyclically. Intel® Automated Factory Solutions is a suite of products that embody the experience Intel has gained implementing Digital Twins. Designed specifically for high-end technical manufacturers, these products are custom-fit to meet each customer’s unique operational challenges.
How an ASML Lithography Machine Moves a Wafer
Zortrax 3D Printers Used for Manufacturing of BMW Car Parts
Here’s a story of how Krzysztof Urban, an engineer and Zortrax employee, used Zortrax 3D printers to restore his 2006 BMW e91 330d car.
Due to the high quality of both 3D printers and materials, the parts did not require much post-processing. The engineer just used a mini grinder to smooth the 3D prints only where necessary. He then painted the elements with black structural spray paint, choosing such techniques of applying the paint to achieve a structure like that of the factory elements.
A novel additive manufacturing compression overmolding process for hybrid metal polymer composite structures
Metal polymer composites combining low density, high strength composites with highly ductile and tough metals have gained traction over the last few decades as lightweight and high-performance materials for industrial applications. However, the mechanical properties are limited by the interfacial bonding strength between metals and polymers achieved through adhesives, welding, and surface treatment processes. In this paper, a novel manufacturing process combining additive manufacturing and compression molding to obtain hybrid metal polymer composites with enhanced mechanical properties is presented. Additive manufacturing enabled deposition of polymeric material with fibers in a predetermined pattern to form tailored charge or preform for compression molding. A grade 300 maraging steel triangular lattice is first fabricated using AddUp FormUp350 laser powder bed system and compression overmolded with additively manufactured long carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide-6,6 (40% wt. CF/PA66) preform. The fabricated hybrid metal polymer composites showed high stiffness and tensile strength. The stiffness and failure characteristics determined from the uniaxial tensile tests were correlated to a finite element model within 20% deviation. Fractographic analyses was performed using microscopy to investigate failure mechanisms of the hybrid structures.
Discoveries in weeks, not years: How AI and high-performance computing are speeding up scientific discovery
Scientists at PNNL are testing a new battery material that was found in a matter of weeks, not years, as part of the collaboration with Microsoft to use advanced AI and high-performance computing (HPC), a type of cloud-based computing that combines large numbers of computers to solve complex scientific and mathematical tasks.
As part of this effort, the Microsoft Quantum team used AI to identify around 500,000 stable materials in the space of a few days. The new battery material came out of a collaboration using Microsoft’s Azure Quantum Elements to winnow 32 million potential inorganic materials to 18 promising candidates that could be used in battery development in just 80 hours. Most importantly, this work breaks ground for a new way of speeding up solutions for urgent sustainability, pharmaceutical and other challenges while giving a glimpse of the advances that will become possible with quantum computing.
New Product Introduction
Highlighting new and innovative products and services
Epson’s Latest High-Power-Density GX-B Series SCARA Robots Designed to Revolutionize Automation Now Available
Leveraging four decades of expertise, the GX-B Series robots are built to meet precise automation demands that help manufacturers tackle the most demanding tasks. Offering multiple arm configurations, handle payloads up to 10 and 20 kg, high throughput and high payloads, the GX10B and GX20B’s versatile features empower machine builders to conquer challenging applications with leading-edge precision.
The GX10B and GX20B are now available through Epson Robots’ channel of distributor partners.
Doosan Robotics Unveils Cutting-Edge Innovations at CES 2024
Driving Doosan Robotics’ versatility within the robotics field is its introduction of Dart-Suite, a next generation robot ecosystem redefining the robot experience. The scalable platform enhances the capabilities of cobots by effortlessly incorporating AI, all while making the advanced technology accessible to the general public.
Utilizing Integrated Development Environment (IDE), Dart-Suite allows consumers to create modules tailored to their needs, much like mobile device apps. The robust software platform dramatically reduces the development time by up to 80%. Working with Dart-Suite is comparable to the ease and usability of smartphones, shaping the user experience for a new era of robotics.
Unleashing the Power of a Vendor-Agnostic Configurator and Immersive CX with Configit Ace®, Integrating with NVIDIA Omniverse
Historically, product configurators have been bundled within other systems, such as CPQ and PLM. By decoupling the “C” in configure, price, and quote solutions, manufacturers can truly scale their operations as products continue to become more complex.
By choosing a vendor-agnostic configuration solution like Configit Ace®, which frees the product configurator from the CPQ bundle, manufacturers can not only expand their role to include unassisted sales channels such as websites and dealer portals, but also scale their manufacturing and engineering operations through a centralized hub of accurate, up-to-date configuration data.
With NVIDIA Omniverse, a platform for developing and deploying advanced 3D applications and pipelines based on OpenUSD, manufacturers across industries can deliver hyper-realistic simulations for an immersive 3D buying experience.
AI Augments Injection Molding Process Control System
RJG Inc. has announced a new feature for its CoPilot process control system called MAX, the process advisor. MAX uses advanced, AI technology powered by Master Molder techniques to provide molders with real-time, expert guidance to optimize their injection molding processes, including reducing waste during production and assisting in bridging the skills gap.
This smart assistant monitors process parameters in real time and offers troubleshooting advice to help molders rapidly resolve issues and improve productivity. RJG’s Molding Automation Xperience, or MAX for short, marks a significant enhancement to the CoPilot system, demonstrating the company’s commitment to leveraging AI to deliver molders a high level of control, efficiency and quality.
How governments are shaping the future industrial landscape.
🇮🇳 Tamil Nadu region secures $4.39bn from electronics giants
India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu has received investment pacts from Tata Electronics Pegatron, Hyundai Motors, Vinfest and others. Tata has committed USD 1.45 billion for mobile phone assembly operations, while Pegatron has pledged USD 1.2 billion to expand production. Auto major Hyundai Motors committed USD 740 million, and Vietnamese EV maker VinFast has assigned up to USD 2 billion to set up its first manufacturing facilities in India. TVS Group, Mitsubishi and Ashok Leyland are among the other other supporting firms.
🇲🇽 Air Liquide Pushes Mexico for Answers After Government Seizes Hydrogen Plant
French industrial gas manufacturer Air Liquide is pressing Mexico for answers after the government took over operations at a hydrogen processing plant in Hidalgo state. Mexico ordered the temporary occupation of Air Liquide’s hydrogen plant at the Miguel Hidalgo refinery in the town of Tula on Dec. 29. The plant will be operated by Pemex’s refining arm known as Pemex Transformación Industrial, which will be responsible for paying compensation to the Paris-based company.
🇪🇺 Volvo Cars to go fully electric with EIB backing
In line with the European Union’s push for a green transition, Volvo Car Corporation and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed a €420 million financing agreement in support of the Swedish carmaker’s decision to become fully electric and carbon neutral. The operation is expected to contribute to the decarbonisation of road transport, a major source of emissions and pollution globally.
🇹🇼 TSMC and PSMC Face Dilemma as Overseas Foundry Costs Skyrocket 2.5 to 4 Times
PSMC Chairman Frank Huang pointed out that, based on the data they have, the cost of building a fab in Japan is 1.5 times higher than in Taiwan, with construction costs being 2.5 times higher and operational costs 50% more expensive than in Taiwan. It would take 7 to 8 years for the combined construction and operation to become profitable, meaning the factory would only start making money three years after its establishment. In contrast, PSMC’s Fab P5 in Tongluo Science Park is expected to break even this year.
PSMC had already disclosed plans to assist India in technology transfer for building a fab in early 2023. Huang explained that because South Korea and the United States are unwilling to teach others how to make semiconductors, neither TSMC nor UMC are offering such assistance, leaving PSMC as the go-to option for those seeking guidance in semiconductor manufacturing.
This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains
Karkhana.io raises $6.3M in Series A led by Arkam Ventures and Susquehanna Asia Venture Capital
Custom manufacturing platform Karkhana.io has raised $6.3 million in a Series A funding round led by Arkam Ventures and Susquehanna Asia Venture Capital. Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India, an existing investor, also participated in the round. The funds will be deployed to fuel expansion of the company’s supplier network, establish an electronics supply chain, and drive scaling efforts in the United States and Europe.
Resynergi Raises $6.4M in Series B Funding Co-led By Transitions First and Lummus Technology To Scale Plastic Recycling Technology
Resynergi, a pioneering leader in plastic recycling technology, announced it has raised $6.4M in series B funding co-led by Transitions First (T1ST), an international industrial deep tech seed-stage venture capital fund, and Lummus Technology, a global provider of process technologies and value-driven energy solutions. The funding will allow the company to scale production of its modular Continuous Microwave Assisted Pyrolysis (CMAP) technology that converts plastic waste into reusable materials at a rate 20 times faster than traditional pyrolysis methods. The company also plans to expand its executive team to drive growth and further cement the company’s position as a leader in plastic circularity.
Atomic-6 Announces Over $9 Million in Total Capital
Atomic-6, a leading innovator in advanced composite manufacturing for Aerospace, Ballistic, and Hypersonic applications, is pleased to announce the successful completion of its first two funding rounds. With an infusion of dilutive funding ($4.95M) and non-dilutive Small Business Innovation Research contracts ($4.24M) awarded by the United States Air Force and Space Force, the company has secured a total of $9.2M to further its innovative pursuits. The funding will bolster the company’s ability to build upon these advancements and further its commitment to delivering superior aerospace and defense solutions.
Xaba Closes $2 Million Seed Extension to Deliver Intelligent, Self-programming Robotic Systems for Manufacturing
Xaba, developer of the first AI-powered cognitive software solution to automate programming and deployment of robotics and CNC machines, announced it has raised US$2 million in a seed extension round of funding to bring to market AI-driven fabrication processes and intelligent autonomous machines. The funding round was led by BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund with participation from Hitachi Ventures and existing investor Hazelview Ventures. The investment will be used to establish and staff a new robotics lab and accelerate the delivery of two Xaba manufacturing platforms.
Xaba is augmenting industrial robots and cobots with xCognition, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered software solution. xCognition leverages innovative proprietary machine learning algorithms to model the elasto-mechanical-dynamic behavior of industrial robotics and cobots, as well as workpiece variances. This includes variances in location and shape, using proprietary rule-based language models to eliminate coding of robotics programs. xCognition solves the challenges of deploying industrial robots by completely automating how they are programmed and adopted. This solution not only increases accuracy, consistency, and throughput, but also significantly reduces the time and costs of robotics deployments.
N-ink wins €1M from Voima Ventures Science Challenge for its IoT-transforming conductive polymers
Swedish deep technology company N-ink was announced as the winner of a science challenge by Voima Ventures, an early-stage investor based in Helsinki and Stockholm. N-ink was founded in 2020 by scientists at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Linköping University in Sweden.
The company provides high-performing, scalable conductive polymers that boost battery and solar cell performance and are useful in Printed Electronics, IoT and Bioelectronics. N-Ink addresses this challenge by formulating and supplying n-type inks with unprecedented performance. Its patented n-Inks are highly conductive, easy to handle, stable, printable, and on par with commercial p-type inks.
ABB acquires Sevensense, expanding leadership in next-generation AI-enabled mobile robotics
ABB announced that it has acquired Swiss start-up Sevensense, a leading provider of AI-enabled 3D vision navigation technology for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Sevensense was founded in 2018 as a spin-off from Swiss technical University, ETH Zurich.
Sevensense’s pioneering navigation technology combines AI and 3D vision, enabling AMRs to make intelligent decisions, differentiating between fixed and mobile objects in dynamic environments. Once manually guided, mobile robots with Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (Visual SLAM) technology create a map that is used to operate independently, reducing commissioning time from weeks to days and enabling the AMRs to navigate in highly complex, dynamic environments alongside people. Maps are constantly updated and shared across the fleet, offering instant scalability without interrupting operations and greater flexibility compared to other navigation technologies.
Maersk Tankers and Penfield Marine to create a tanker company with unique reach
Maersk Tankers has acquired Penfield Marine to create a large-scale crude and product tanker company offering pool partners and cargo customers a wider range of services. The combined company will manage around 240 vessels, including approximately 45 vessels owned by affiliated companies.
JBT Corporation Receives Extension of PUSU Deadline for Proposal to Merge With Marel
JBT Corporation (NYSE: JBT) (“JBT”), a leading global technology solutions provider to high-value segments of the food & beverage industry, announced that the Financial Supervisory Authority of the Central Bank of Iceland (the “FSA”) has granted an extension to the deadline for JBT to announce its final decision on whether to make a voluntary takeover offer for all of the outstanding common stock of Marel hf. (“Marel”) (the “PUSU Deadline”) in relation to JBT’s non-binding proposal originally submitted to the Board of Directors of Marel on November 24, 2023, and subsequently revised on December 13, 2023. In accordance with Article 102 of the Icelandic Takeovers Act no. 108/2007, JBT was required to announce its intentions by no later than January 5, 2024. This announcement follows Marel’s disclosure that the FSA has extended the PUSU Deadline to January 19, 2024.
Valiant TMS and Realtime Robotics Partner to Reduce a Customer's Cycle Time by 17% and Cut Programming Time in Half
Realtime Robotics, the leader in collision-free autonomous motion planning for industrial robots, today announced that Valiant TMS, a full-service Industry 4.0 system integrator, has partnered with the company to apply its innovative Optimization-as-a-Service solution to customers’ manufacturing operations.
The combination of Valiant TMS’ years of manufacturing industry expertise with Realtime Robotics’ proprietary optimization software and experienced robotics engineering insights presents customers with an easy way to improve the efficiency and productivity of their automation operations. Realtime’s solution rapidly generates and tests hundreds of thousands of potential robot paths, determining the best motion sequences based on target sequences, robot reach, and other customer-desired parameters.
In fact, in a recently completed multi-robot application, Valiant TMS used Realtime’s optimization solution to design motion plans with more efficient motion paths, better interlocks, and a faster execution time, ultimately reducing a customer’s robot cycle time by 17% and cutting robot programming time in half.
Siemens and Voltaiq collaborate to optimize battery manufacturing
Siemens Digital Industries Software announced its collaboration with Voltaiq to accelerate battery manufacturing, by combining their strengths to offer unparalleled capabilities for battery manufacturing-focused companies. This collaboration aims to bring together the production-proven capabilities of both Siemens’ Insights Hub™ and Voltaiq’s Enterprise Battery Intelligence™ (EBI), customers can gain access to unparalleled capability specific to battery-domain companies to help rapidly scale operations smoothly, from initial testing to full-scale production lines.