LLM Agents Plan Autonomous Production


Shop Talk

Capturing this week's zeitgeist

A $250 Robot Arm and robotaxis are coming soon!

Kaizen Blitz

  • 📊 Survey Says
    • 🔋 The Volta Foundation’s 2023 Battery Report is out!
      • Cell & EV manufacturing companies capture more sections of the value chain (midstream & downstream). Despite having lower net profit margins compared to component businesses, they still dominate through their financial strength and scale.
      • Mining and Recycling, Electrolyte & separator, and equipment companies enjoy higher gross profit margins due to lower Cost of Goods Sold. However, mining & recycling companies have low net profit margins due to high operating expenses (e.g. high upfront capex, licensing, permitting).
    • 🖨️ Wohlers Report 2024 expects a shift in 3D printing to high-volume production of end-use parts. Driven by improvements to 3D printers and post-processing, the report predicts that production will move from thousands of parts to hundreds of thousands, with million-part production runs anticipated for small components.
  • 🏭💰 Factory investments
    • 🚙 Tesla scouts sites for $3bn India car plant
    • 💿 SK Hynix plans facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, amid uptick in Midwestern semiconductor projects
    • 💿 Samsung ramps up investment to $44 billion for hub near Austin making advanced semiconductors.
  • ⛓️‍💥 Supply Disruption

Assembly Line

This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.

Autonomous tractors plow path to the future at Caterpillar’s secluded Peoria Proving Ground

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Autonomous Vehicle

🏢 Organizations: Caterpillar

In another building, engineers wire up sensors to a Cat D5 bulldozer to take transmitted readings as it operates in the field, a sort of tractor electrocardiogram. Nearby sits the pride of Peoria, a hulking D11XE, a prototype of the first electric drive mining tractor.

The D11 mining tractor, the largest bulldozer Caterpillar makes, is built exclusively at its East Peoria factory. Launched in 1986, the 230,000-pound behemoth is a mainstay in mining and large construction projects. In October, the 6,000th D11 rolled off the production line, bound for an Australian customer site.

Caterpillar, which began experimenting with autonomous construction equipment nearly a decade ago, is one of several major companies developing it, along with Doosan in South Korea and Volvo Autonomous Solutions, which unveiled its new Swedish testing site in November. The potentially transformative technology is still in the early stages of commercialization.

Read more at Chicago Tribune

The Air Force is quietly revolutionizing parts replacement

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Patrick Tucker

🏭 Vertical: Defense

🏢 Organizations: Machina Labs, US Air Force

The U.S. military spends billions on replacement parts for aircraft each year, with the Air Force requesting $1.5 billion for parts in the next fiscal year alone. Now, officials at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, working with a startup called Machina Labs, say they’ve found a robotic AI-driven solution to those high costs. And the new technique could also significantly shorten the supply chain, allowing replacement to happen closer to the front lines.

In terms of the military’s future needs, the system’s most important asset may be its small size, with the current version able to fit on the back of a truck. A smaller infrastructure footprint could mean not only cost savings, but also allow troops to move repair work—or drone making—much closer to the battlefield. That’s something the Ukrainians have done with great success, and it allows for much more nimble operations as well as decreasing the vulnerability of supply lines. It could be particularly useful in the Pacific, where parts resupply is fraught with logistical and political challenges.

Read more at Defense One

AI-powered 3D inspection system for factory automation - In-Sight L38 Series from Cognex

Seeq and AspenTech accelerate self-service industrial analytics on AWS

📅 Date:

✍️ Authors: Preet Virk, Ben Bishop, Stephane Rioux

🔖 Topics: Data Historian, Manufacturing Analytics

🏢 Organizations: Seeq, AspenTech, AWS

With Seeq powered by the wealth of data stored in IP.21 running on AWS, you can clean, perform calculations on, and analyze IP.21 data—including context from relational data sources such as MES, batch, and other applications—to diagnose and predict issues and share findings across the organization. With NRT expert collaboration and deeper insights, Seeq helps organizations advance toward their sustainability and operational excellence goals. By tapping into rich data from IP.21, Seeq helps substantially reduce maintenance costs and minimize downtime. You can set up advanced workflows like ML with data-driven, state-of-the-art methods already proven in critical industries using the Seeq SaaS platform in conjunction with the AWS Cloud. The Seeq SaaS solution is listed on AWS Marketplace, making it easier to procure, deploy, and manage your workload.

Read more at AWS Blogs

When Solvay asked for EDI changes, we made it happen

Large language model based agent for process planning of fiber composite structures

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Composite Lay-up, Large Language Model

🏢 Organizations: Fraunhofer Institute for Casting

Process planning is a crucial activity, connecting product development and manufacturing of fiber composite structures. Recently published Large Language Models (LLM) promise more flexible and autonomous workflows compared to state of the art automation methods. An autonomous agent for process planning of fiber composite structures is implemented with the LangChain framework, based on OpenAI’s GPT-4 language model. The agent is equipped with deterministic tools which encode a-priori process planning knowledge. It can handle different process planning problems, such as cycle time estimation and resource allocation. Combinations thereof are solved through executing a multi-step solution path.

The agent is supposed to solve these problems autonomously:

  1. Time Estimation - Estimate the cycle time, i.e., duration from start to end, for a manufacturing task.
  2. Process Chains - Determine which tasks are required in which order to manufacture a specific component.
  3. Resource Allocation - Identify the resources, e.g. machines, required to manufacture a specific component.
  4. Integrated Planning - Estimate the total cycle time for a chain of tasks required to manufacture a component.

Read more at Manufacturing Letters

New Product Introduction

Highlighting new and innovative facilities, processes, products, and services

New reactor could save millions when making ingredients for plastics and rubber from natural gas

📅 Date:

🏭 Vertical: Chemical, Petroleum and Coal

🏢 Organizations: University of Michigan

The researchers’ new reactor system efficiently makes propylene from shale gas by separating propane into propylene and hydrogen gas. It also gives hydrogen a way out, changing the balance between the concentration of propane and reaction products in a way that allows more propylene to be made. Once separated, the hydrogen can also be safely burned away from the propane, heating the reactor enough to speed up the reactions without making any undesirable compounds.

Because the hydrogen can be burned inside the reactor and can operate under higher propane pressures, the technology could allow plants to produce propylene from natural gas without installing extra heaters. A plant that produces 500,000 metric tons of propylene annually could save as much as $23.5 million over other methods starting with shale gas, according to the researchers’ estimates. Those savings come on top of the operational savings from burning hydrogen produced in reaction, rather than other fuels.

Read more at UMich News

Quilter's router is now 7x faster

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Will Hart

🏭 Vertical: Computer and Electronic

🏢 Organizations: Quilter

The first of many speedups to Quilter’s AI design engine: a rebuild of our local routing submodule that makes routing 7x faster, overall job completion 3.5x faster, and improves our success rate for complex boards from 93.4% to 98.4%.

We achieved our 7x speed unlock with a relatively straightforward change – rebuilding our “localized routing” submodule in native (C++) from Python, alongside improvements to its algorithmic efficiency.

Read more at Quilter Blog

Industrial Policy

How governments are shaping the future industrial landscape.

🇨🇳 US-Europe Gripes on China Overcapacity Aren’t All Backed by Data

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Tom Hancock

A look at the data suggests that while China does have widespread industrial overcapacity, much of this is driven by industries that Western nations don’t compete with China on, such as low-tech goods and those related to the nation’s property slump — from cement to furniture.

For EVs, the issue for advanced economies appears to be more that Chinese companies are more efficient rather than loaded with excess capacity. Chinese leaders have been pouring money into manufacturing, focusing on new industries such as EVs, batteries and renewable energy, as Beijing looks for new sources of growth for its slowing economy. Trading partners worried about the prospect of low-cost imports flooding their markets and wiping out jobs are pushing back — and in some cases raising the barriers on Chinese products.

Read more at Bloomberg

🇦🇪🇸🇦🇴🇲 How Gulf states are putting their money into mining

📅 Date:

✍️ Authors: Harry Dempsey, Chloe Cornish

Gulf nations, hungry to diversify their economies beyond fossil fuels, are redirecting petrodollars to secure copper, nickel and other minerals used in power transmission lines, electric cars and renewable power.

Beyond the UAE, chief among them is Saudi Arabia which wants mining to contribute $75bn to its economy by 2035, up from $17bn. Oman has started construction of what could be the world’s largest green steel plant that plans to use iron ore from Cameroon, while the Qatar Investment Authority, the gas-rich state’s sovereign wealth fund, is now Glencore’s second-biggest shareholder.

Read more at Financial Times

🇯🇵 Japan Approves $3.9 Billion Subsidy for Rapidus

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Alan Patterson

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) approved an additional ¥590 billion ($3.9 billion) for startup chip foundry Rapidus as part of a plan to revive the nation’s semiconductor industry. Rapidus aims to start production of 2-nm chips by 2027.

Read more at EE Times

Business Transactions

This week's top funding events, acquisitions, and partnerships across industrial value chains.

actnano, Inc. Announces $40 Million Investment

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: actnano, Anthelion Capital

actnano, Inc., a global leader in surface protection technologies for automotive, consumer, and industrial electronics, announced the closing of a $40 million investment by Anthelion Capital. actnano’s innovative solutions are trusted globally by leading electronics OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers to provide advanced protection from water and harsh environmental conditions. The company will use the proceeds to continue to expand its technical sales and services footprint as well as to increase production volumes and efficiencies to meet the global demand for their product.

Read more at Business Wire

OROS Labs®, creators of Solarcore® insulation, secures $22 million in Series B funding led by Airbus Ventures

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: OROS Labs, Airbus

OROS Labs, an innovative thermal solutions company, announced the closure of its Series B funding round, raising $22 million to support the company’s expansion in consumer, commercial and government industries. The round of funding was led by Airbus Ventures, with participation from REI Co-op Path Ahead Ventures, Platinum Mile Ventures, Culper Ventures, Crumpton Ventures, Iron Gate Capital Advisors, Enlightenment Capital, CTK and the Goldwin Play Earth Fund, among others.

Solarcore®, leverages the thermal properties of Aerogel, the world’s lowest thermally conductive solid, to revolutionize insulation for a multitude of applications – from structures and packaging to cold weather apparel and footwear. By combining cutting-edge technology with innovative design, Solarcore sets new standards for thermal efficiency, along with being durable, versatile and applicable to many different product categories.

Read more at Business Wire

BurnBot Secures $20M in Series A Funding to Prevent Destructive Wildfires with Mechanized Vegetation Management

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: BurnBot, ReGen Ventures, Toyota

BurnBot, announced it has raised $20 million in financing to expand its mechanized vegetation management and fuel treatment solutions to prevent destructive wildfires. The round was led by ReGen Ventures, with participation from Toyota Ventures, AmFam Ventures, Convective Capital, Blue Forest Asset Management, Skip Capital, Overture Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital and Pathbreaker Ventures.

To amplify prescribed fire capacity, BurnBot developed the RX, a mechanized prescribed fire system that precisely deploys fire within an enclosed chamber, cooling the land as it moves. “Our technology is a force multiplier, enabling small crews to treat areas 10X faster and more efficiently. We know that fire is an effective and ecological way to manage fuel buildup and we designed the RX to operate with minimal smoke and escape risk, so it’s safe for use year-round, even near communities and critical infrastructure. This investment will allow us to expand our technology development and operations, and we’re excited to make a positive impact,” said Waleed “Lee” Haddad, Co-Founder and CTO of BurnBot.

Read more at PR Newswire

York IE Invests in Völur

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Volur, York IE

York IE, an advisory and venture capital firm that helps technology companies grow, announced its investment in Völur, a global software company in meat industry optimization. York IE participated in Völur’s $2.8 million funding round, as did Serra Ventures and Völur’s corporate partner, SARIA. Existing investors Idékapital, Fusion Fund and Fortress Fund followed on with additional investments. Völur’s funding will help the Oslo-based company ensure top-line growth and continue to revolutionize the meat industry with data and AI methodologies.

Read more at York IE

Ailytics raises US$2.7m to power next generation scenario-based AI monitoring for heavy industries

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Ailytics, Tin Men Capital

Ailytics, a Singapore-based B2B heavy industry software startup which utilises scenario-based AI-powered video analytics solutions to help companies enhance their operational safety and productivity has successfully secured its oversubscribed Pre-A funding of US$2.7mil led by Singapore-based venture capital firm, Tin Men Capital, that focuses on B2B software startups in Southeast Asia. The round is also joined by Aurum Investments, AngelCentral, and other strategic investors.

The startup’s proprietary solution taps on existing cameras to provide real-time actionable insights of unsafe acts, productivity metrics, and security breaches. It can provide 3D dimensions using a 2D video feed from any single camera, which enables the deployment of complex use cases such as calculating the danger zone under heavy load and a fixed radius around hazardous equipment. The solution can be deployed with high accuracy using existing low resolution cameras, even in harsh environments, making it suitable for dynamic environments found in heavy industries such as construction sites and manufacturing plants.

Read more at PR Newswire

Lincoln Electric Acquires RedViking®

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Acquisition

🏢 Organizations: Lincoln Electric, RedViking

Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc. announced that it has acquired RedViking, a privately held automation system integrator based in Plymouth, Michigan, U.S. RedViking specializes in the development and integration of state-of-the-art autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) and mobile robots, custom assembly and dynamic test systems, and proprietary manufacturing execution system (MES) software. The company serves customers in the aerospace and defense, transportation, and general industry sectors.

Read more at Lincoln Electric News

AVEVA and Databricks Forge Strategic Collaboration to Accelerate Industrial AI Outcomes and Enable a Connected Industrial Ecosystem

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Partnership

🏢 Organizations: AVEVA, Databricks

AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software, and Databricks, the Data and AI company and inventor of the data lakehouse, proudly announce a strategic partnership aimed at reshaping the future of industrial software through an open, secure, and governed approach to data and AI. This collaboration will drive a closer integration between AVEVA Connect, AVEVA’s industrial intelligence platform, and the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform.

The partnership will act as a catalyst for AVEVA’s vision of a connected industrial ecosystem by enabling seamless and secure sharing of data amongst different industry applications and community stakeholders, orchestrated by AVEVA Connect. An open approach for industry collaboration and secure, cross-platform data sharing, powered by Databricks’ Delta Sharing, will help mutual customers in manufacturing, energy, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical sectors to identify new sources of value and gain flexibility in industrial processes, without compromising on security and governance.

Read more at AVEVA News

Agility Robotics and Manhattan Associates Partner to Bring AI-Powered Humanoid Robots into the Warehouse

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Partnership

🏢 Organizations: Agility Robotics, Manhattan Associates

Agility Robotics, creator of the market-leading bipedal Mobile Manipulation Robot (MMR) Digit, announced a partnership with Manhattan Associates, the global leader in supply chain commerce. This industry-first partnership marks a significant step forward for customers across a wide array of industries looking to integrate multi-purpose bipedal robots, like Digit, into their existing warehouse workflows.

As part of the partnership, Agility will join the Manhattan Value Partner (MVP) program for trusted partners, and the Manhattan Automation Network for warehouse automation solution providers. Manhattan and Agility will work together to integrate Digit and Agility Arc, Agility’s cloud automation platform for managing fleets of Digits, with the Manhattan Active Warehouse Management solution. Agility is the first humanoid robotics provider to join both the MVP and the Manhattan Automation Network.

Read more at Business Wire