Pulling Back the Curtain on Automation


Shop Talk

Capturing this week's zeitgeist

Three themes to explore this week at AUTOMATE 2024 in Chicago. Unable to attend like me? Check the links below to see what you’ll be missing.

  • Robotic Solutions
    • ABB (Booth #2239) - Watch a car component manufacturing demo with three ABB six-axis robots, one representing the expansion of ABB’s robot portfolio.
    • Universal Robots (#1541) - View a demo of an AI-powered autonomous inspection solution showcasing robotic path planning 50-80x faster than today’s solutions, made possible through NVIDIA’s accelerated path planning.
    • Mujin (#4636) - Experience the future of robotics with our MujinController platform, an innovation that has transformed the industry with “teachless” technology and real-time digital twin capabilities.
    • Epson (#457) - Check out their latest high-power-density GX-B Series SCARA robots.
  • Software Defined Automation
    • Vention (#2813) - Explore their AI-powered Manufacturing Automation Platform (MAP) and attend software demos and educational animations.
    • Beckhoff (#1002) - Ask about their AutoML tool designed to be platform-aware, allowing users to select specific hardware configurations and latency limits for AI/ML model inference.
    • Copia Automation (#1784) - See modern OT DevOps practices for PLC programming in action, streamlining how industrial machinery is commissioned and operated.
  • Sensing Systems
    • Photoneo (#619) - Observe their award-winning MotionCam-3D camera, the only structured light sensor available that can scan objects in motion with high precision.
    • Bota Systems (#831) - Ask about their PixONE and SensONE T5 force torque sensors for robotics applications bringing together high-performance electronics with a compact, lightweight design.
    • Lumafield (#4073) - Try their 3D X-ray CT scanner enabling engineers to design, build, and ship products at the speed of light.

Kaizen Blitz

Assembly Line

This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.

Hiroshima company's 'forever' usable laundry equipment spurs growth

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Kotaro Abe

🏭 Vertical: Electrical Equipment

🏢 Organizations: Yamato Manufacturing

Yamamoto Manufacturing, a family-owned maker of commercial laundry equipment located in western Japan, is busy with orders from abroad for its “forever machines,” as they are known by some customers in the U.S. The company, based in Onomichi, Hiroshima prefecture, emphasizes the durability of its products, guaranteeing delivery of replacement parts for as long as customers want to keep using them.

Overseas manufacturers typically stop supplying parts for older machines 10 to 15 years after they are sold, forcing customers to buy new equipment. Yamamoto, by contrast, promises unlimited replacement parts, allowing customers to maintain their machines indefinitely. This lowers long-term operating costs by eliminating the need to buy new equipment. Some customers in the U.S. call Yamamoto’s equipment forever machines because of their reliability, according to the company.

Read more at Nikkei Asia

How a wiring robot came to solve the electrical function integration challenge

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: End Effector

🏢 Organizations: Q5D

Q5D launched its first 5-axis CNC additive manufacturing robot cell, the CY1000 in 2023. Designed to automate the difficult task of adding electrical connections to increasingly complex products, the self-contained CY1000 robot eliminates the need for expensive, bulky, and heavy wiring harnesses. Freelance technical writer and journalist, Robert Huntley caught up with Chris Elsworthy, Chief Technology Officer at Q5D’s Bristol, UK headquarters to talk about the company’s vision and some of the challenges it overcame to bring the robot to market.

Our software is in three parts. We have the embedded software that the FPGA runs, which is all the real-time maths and stuff. The Pi is running the machine’s firmware, taking all the G-Code instructions, and passing them to the FPGA. And then, on top of that, we had the GUI, which is the interface between the human and what instructions get sent to the Raspberry Pi. We chose Raspberry Pi because of the value of it. Our original boards had microcontrollers, USB and HDMI connectors, and everything you could ever need to plug into a wider world, but it cost us thousands of pounds to develop that. Whereas the Raspberry Pi is £90, you get all that built-in, it’s all tested, and there’s a wealth of information on the net about how to use it, so it was a much easier way for us to optimize and develop.

Read more at Q5D

Inside the Factory Producing Massive Ford Trucks From Scratch

Achieving robust closed-loop control in remote locations with Kelvin’s edge-cloud communication

📅 Date:

✍️ Authors: Tim Le Souef, Tim Crommelin

🔖 Topics: Closed-loop control, Edge Computing

🏢 Organizations: Kelvin, AWS

In today’s digital landscape, optimizing the performance of distributed assets in remote locations poses unique challenges. Achieving closed-loop control, where real-time monitoring and adjustments are made based on feedback, becomes particularly difficult when reliable and consistent connectivity is not guaranteed. However, with the advent of distributed edge computing, companies like Kelvin are revolutionizing the way we approach closed-loop control in remote areas. In this blog post, we will delve into Kelvin’s innovative edge-cloud communication mechanism and explore how it enables robust closed-loop control of distributed, networked assets in remote locations.

Kelvin, a leading next-gen industrial automation software company, provides artificial intelligence (AI)–powered asset performance optimization software that focuses on the industries of energy (for example, well construction and completions), upstream oil and gas production, midstream oil and gas operations, process manufacturing (for example, chemicals, food and beverages, and pulp and paper), mining and metals, and renewable energy. Multiple global enterprises that operate thousands of assets (e.g. BP, Halliburton and Santos) have used Kelvin solutions built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to connect, create, and scale advanced closed-loop supervisory-control applications across their operations without needing to rip and replace any of their existing infrastructure.

Read more at AWS Blog

MING Stack and the Future with Founders of mosquitto and Portainer.io

Nuclear Supply Chain for the BWRX-300 SMR Takes Shape

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Sonal Patel

🏭 Vertical: Electrical Equipment

🏢 Organizations: GE Vernova, Hitachi, BWXT

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is forming a group of qualified supply chain companies to help ensure the deployment of its BWRX-300 small nuclear modular reactor (SMR). The move comes as power companies vie for components amidst a supply chain strain that has led some sectors to delay critical infrastructure projects and ramped up competition for scarce resources and long-lead components. The BWRX-300, GEH’s flagship SMR, is the 10th evolution of GE’s boiling water reactor (BWR) design. The design is based on the Gen III+ 1,520-MW ESBWR, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) certified in 2014.

A key issue facing the nuclear industry relates to a declining number of nuclear-grade suppliers and a loss of skills in some regions, NEA noted. Supply chain development, particularly for advanced nuclear, will require a strong emphasis on quality delivery, which will require strengthened management of advanced manufacturing and commercial-grade procurement. It will also require a keen awareness of continued risks “associated with counterfeit and fraudulent activities and potential methods to mitigate risks in a constantly changing environment,” NEA said.

Read more at POWER

ETH spin-offs develop high-performance batteries

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Deborah Kyburz

🔖 Topics: Multilayer Curtain Coating

🏢 Organizations: BTRY, 8inks, ETH Zurich

Moritz Futscher and Abdessalem Aribia, the two founders of BTRY, have therefore developed a solid-state battery that consists of thin layers, which can shorten the charging time many times over. The two researchers entirely forego liquids both during the manufacturing process and for the components of their battery. The solid-state batteries that are currently being developed by BTRY have the major advantage of being very resistant to temperature fluctuations. They can therefore be used both at very high temperatures, such as in sensors that detect vapour leaks, and at very low temperatures, for example during the transportation of medicines.

ETH spin-off 8inks stands out from other battery manufacturers with its innovative production technology. It aims to use this to replace the manufacturing standard for lithium-ion batteries that has remained largely unchanged for the last 30 years – the so-called slot die technique. Paul Baade, founder of 8inks, has developed a technique called “multilayer curtain coating”. By applying several thin coats of the active material in which the lithium-ion is stored, the coating technique can be tailored to the applicable requirements. Owing to the variety in terms of the thickness and material properties of the individual layers, the technique supports, among other things, the scaling of solid-state batteries. Another advantage of the technique is that the coating speed of the battery electrodes can be vastly accelerated and is therefore optimally suited to meet the rising demand.

Read more at ETH News

Electric vehicle battery chemistry affects supply chain disruption vulnerabilities

📅 Date:

✍️ Authors: Anthony L. Cheng, Erica R. H. Fuchs, Valerie J. Karplus, Jeremy J. Michalek

🏭 Vertical: Electrical Equipment

🏢 Organizations: Carnegie Mellon University

We examine the relationship between electric vehicle battery chemistry and supply chain disruption vulnerability for four critical minerals: lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese. We compare the nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cathode chemistries by (1) mapping the supply chains for these four materials, (2) calculating a vulnerability index for each cathode chemistry for various focal countries and (3) using network flow optimization to bound uncertainties. World supply is currently vulnerable to disruptions in China for both chemistries: 80% [71% to 100%] of NMC cathodes and 92% [90% to 93%] of LFP cathodes include minerals that pass through China. NMC has additional risks due to concentrations of nickel, cobalt, and manganese in other countries. The combined vulnerability of multiple supply chain stages is substantially larger than at individual steps alone. Our results suggest that reducing risk requires addressing vulnerabilities across the entire battery supply chain.

Read more at Nature Communications

SIGMA: An open-source mixed-reality system for research on physical task assistance

📅 Date:

✍️ Authors: Dan Bohus, Sean Andrist

🔖 Topics: Connected Worker, Augmented Reality, Open Source

🏢 Organizations: Microsoft

What would it take to build an interactive AI system that could assist you with any task in the physical world, just as a real-time expert would? To begin exploring the core competencies that such a system would require, we developed and released the Situated Interactive Guidance, Monitoring, and Assistance (SIGMA) system, an open-source research platform and testbed prototype for studying mixed-reality task assistance. SIGMA provides a basis for researchers to explore, understand, and develop the capabilities required to enable in-stream task assistance in the physical world.

Read more at Microsoft Research

New Product Introduction

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

Natron Energy Achieves First-Ever Commercial-Scale Production of Sodium-Ion Batteries in the U.S.

📅 Date:

🏢 Organizations: Natron Energy

Natron Energy, Inc., the global leader in sodium-ion battery technology, announced the commencement of commercial-scale operations at its sodium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Holland, Michigan. Natron’s milestone marks the first-ever commercial-scale production of sodium-ion batteries in the U.S. These batteries offer higher power density, higher cycles, a domestic U.S. supply chain, and unique safety characteristics over other battery technologies, and are the only UL-listed sodium-ion batteries on the market today.

Read more at Business Wire

Introducing Valmet DNAe: A Next-generation Distributed Control System

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Stephanie Leonida

🔖 Topics: Distributed Control System

🏢 Organizations: Valmut

Valmet has released its next-generation distributed control system, Valmet DNAe, updated with a cybersecure system architecture and new engineering and analytics tools. In addition to improving the efficiency of autonomous operations, the new web-based control system is designed to provide enhanced security, sustainability, and usability. The system’s modular nature allows upgrades to previous system iterations. Valmet serves the paper, pulp, and energy industries, developing and providing advanced process technology, automation solutions, and services.

Read more at Control Automation

Industrial Policy

How governments are shaping the future industrial landscape.

🇺🇸 Rivian receives $827 mln in incentives to expand Illinois facility

📅 Date:

Rivian Automotive has received $827 million in an incentive package from the State of Illinois to expand operations at its Normal facility. The company said the funds from the state of Illinois would be spent on expanding the plant, improving public infrastructure and job training programs for its workforce.

Read more at Reuters

🇮🇹 Italy plans to invest nearly €10B in chips

📅 Date:

The Italian government is planning to invest around €10 billion in the semiconductor industry throughout the year, informed Industry Minister Adolfo Urso, as per news agency Ansa. In March, Urso announced an investment of €3.2 billion by the Singaporean startup Silicon Box, to build a chip factory in the north of the country. The announcement came after the government failed to persuade US-based chip-maker giant Intel Corp. to invest.

Read more at TFN

Business Transactions

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

Arris Secures Additional $34M in Funding

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event, Additive Molding

🏢 Organizations: ARRIS Composites

ARRIS®, an advanced manufacturer with a breakthrough technology enabling the highest-performing fiber-reinforced composites at scale, announced that it has raised $34 million in its latest fundraising round. The round saw participation from new and returning investors, including ST Engineering, Zebra Technologies, Youngone, Standard Industries, Vertex Exploratory Fund, NEA, XN, Taiwania Capital, Bosch Ventures, Modern Venture Partners (MVP), and Alumni Ventures Group (AVG). The funding will be used to build on the ARRIS’ success in scaling its global operations.

Founded in 2017, the ARRIS Technology team created a new manufacturing category called Additive Molding by pioneering the development of patented software, materials, and high-volume production methods that prioritize specific stiffness and strength. New levels of product performance are now possible with this first-of-its-kind advanced manufacturing platform, enabling continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite structures that are lighter and more sustainable.

Read more at PR Newswire

Invent Analytics Raises $17M to Help Retailers Maximize Profits with Supply Chain AI

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Invent Analytics, LFX Venture Partners

Invent Analytics, announced that it has secured $17 million in Series B funding. The investment round is led by LFX Venture Partners, in partnership with existing investors European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Collective Spark. Invent Analytics is helping leading brands maximize profits by leveraging its AI-powered SaaS solutions for demand forecasting, inventory planning, replenishment, allocation, returns positioning, and pricing.

Read more at PR Newswire

Deltia.ai bags €4.5M to combat manufacturing labour shortage using AI and computer vision

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Deltia AI, Cavalry Ventures

Berlin-based Deltia.ai, a computer vision software company, recently announced the completion of €4.5M in a seed funding round led by Cavalry Ventures, with participation from existing investor Merantix. The German company will use the funds to accelerate customer onboarding, enhance AI capabilities for machining processes, and integrate customer IT systems’ data.

The Berlin-based Deltia.ai offers a solution by using visual digitisation to convert manual production processes such as assembly, packaging, and machinery adjustments into digital formats. The algorithm used by the company analyses factors like hand movements and cycle times to identify any unnecessary steps, thereby proposing ways to improve the process.

Read more at Silicon Canals

Cogtive receives a R$10 million investment from Indicator Capital

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Cogtive, Indicator Capital

Cogtive, a startup that enhances the productivity of Manufacturing industries through IoT technologies, digital twins, and artificial intelligence, receives a R$10 million investment from Indicator Capital, the largest early-stage venture capital firm in Latin America specializing in the Internet of Things (IoT). This investment aims to help the company address a significant challenge in the industrial sector: ensuring that factories operate at their maximum capacity by mapping inefficiencies in the production process and delivering tools for optimization.

Read more at PR Newswire

Shinkei Announces $6 Million in Seed Funding for Sustainable Robotic Fish Harvesting

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Shinkei, Cantos

Shinkei is pioneering a commercial fish processing technology and announced $6 million in new seed funding for the launch of its modern system that merges machine learning, robotics, and centuries-old fish harvesting techniques. The round was led by Cantos, with additional participation by 8VC, Impatient Ventures, Susa/Humba Ventures, Carya Venture Partners, Ravelin Capital, Red & Blue Ventures, Undeterred Capital, and others joining existing investors.

Fish is the primary source of protein for over 3 billion people, yet over 60 percent of all fish caught in America are never actually eaten. Shinkei automates the time-tested ike jime technique of humanely processing fish, enhancing the quality, taste and shelf-life of the raw product. Importantly, fish processed using this technology remain fresh for up to three times as long as the standard harvesting methods.

Read more at PR Newswire

Hitachi Acquires MA Micro

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Acquisition

🏢 Organizations: Hitachi, MA micro automation, JR Automation

Hitachi Ltd. has signed a stock purchase agreement on April 26 to acquire all shares of MA micro automation GmbH from MAX Management GmbH. MA micro automation is a leading provider of robotic and automation technology (robotic SI) including high-speed linear handling systems, high-precision assembly lines, and high-speed vision inspection technology for Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia, for EUR 71.5M million. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2024, pending completion of the customary regulatory filings. After the acquisition is completed, MA micro automation will join JR Automation Technologies, LLC, a market leader in providing advanced automation solutions and digital technologies in the robotic system integration business for North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia as a continued effort to expand the company’s global presence.

Read more at PR Newswire

o9 and Resilinc Partner to Provide Joint Clients With Greater Visibility Into Their Multi-Tier Supply Network

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Partnership

🏢 Organizations: o9 Solutions, Resilinc

o9, a leading enterprise AI software platform provider for transforming planning and decision-making, announced that it has formed a strategic partnership with Resilinc, a leading supply chain mapping, disruption sensing, and resiliency analytics company. The partnership will enable joint clients to monitor their n-tier supply network to sense upstream risks, determine impacts, and propagate them across their extended supply chain.

Resilinc holds 13 years’ worth of supply chain risk data including a validated supplier network that has been mapped down to the sub-tier, part-site, and commodity level. This high-quality, multi-tier supply chain data can easily integrate with o9’s multi-tier impact and mitigation analytics solution. This integration significantly extends o9’s digital supply chain twin and risk management capabilities. The alliance between the two companies will provide joint clients with greater visibility into their multi-tier supply chain networks, allowing them to detect risks earlier, run and evaluate different what-if scenarios, and make data-driven decisions. It will enable users to mitigate risks through closer collaboration with their vendors, prescribe corrective actions, and run resolution scenarios to minimize disruptions - ultimately leading to higher service levels and more reliable inventory availability information.

Read more at Business Wire