Industrial Automation Aurora ☄️


Shop Talk

Capturing this week's zeitgeist

AUTOMATE 2024 wrapped up with an illuminating aurora.

Three companies celebrated breakthroughs in the inaugural Automate Innovation Awards:

  • Hardware - Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Embedded+ Architecture
  • Software - PrintStator is an advanced electric motor computer-aided design platform developed by Boston-based startup ECM
  • Systems - Scan&Grind from GrayMatter Robotics comprehensively meets the challenges of manual grinding operations

Additionally, there were a couple of notable unveils:

  • FANUC presented the world’s first explosion-proof collaborative paint robot, the CRX-10iA/L Paint.
  • Kassow Robots released its Edge Edition 7-axis cobot, the first time a cobot has had the controller integrated into the base.

Kaizen Blitz

  • 📊 Survey Says
  • 🏭💰 Factory Investments
    • Fortescue officially launches its first U.S. green hydrogen production facility, Arizona Hydrogen, with soil turn ceremony in Buckeye, Arizona
    • Construction of high-voltage battery assembly gets underway at BMW Group Plant San Luis Potosí
    • ION Storage Systems Commissions One of the USA’s Largest Solid-State Battery Manufacturing Facilities
    • Joby Expands California Manufacturing Facility, Rolls Second Aircraft Off Production Line
  • 🏢💸 Corporate Frontier
    • The Molecular Foundations for Sustainability: Sustainable Polymers Enabled by Emerging Data Analytics program (MFS-SPEED) is a cross-directorate funding call supported by the NSF Directorates for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), and five industry partners: Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, BASF, Dow, and IBM. The goal of MFS-SPEED is to support fundamental research enabling the accelerated discovery and ultimate manufacturing of sustainable polymers using state-of-the-art data science, and to enhance development of a cross-disciplinary workforce skilled in this area.

Assembly Line

This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.

Unlocking new value in industrial automation with AI

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Wendy Tan White

🔖 Topics: Foundation Model, Industrial Robot

🏢 Organizations: Intrinsic, NVIDIA, Trumpf, Google

Working with the robotics team at NVIDIA, we have successfully tested NVIDIA robotics platform technologies, including NVIDIA Isaac Manipulator foundation models for robot a grasping skill with the Intrinsic platform. This prototype features an industrial application specified by one of our partners and customers, Trumpf Machine Tools. This grasping skill, trained with 100% synthetic data generated by NVIDIA Isaac Sim, can be used to build sophisticated solutions that can perform adaptive and versatile object grasping tasks in sim and real. Instead of hard-coding specific grippers to grasp specific objects in a certain way, efficient code for a particular gripper and object is auto-generated to complete the task using the foundation model and synthetic training data.

Together with Google DeepMind, we’ve demonstrated some novel and high value methods for robotic programming and orchestration — many of which have practical applications today:

  • Multi-robot motion planning with machine learning
  • Learning from demonstration, applied to two-handed dexterous manipulation
  • Foundation model for perception by enabling a robotic system to understand the next task and the physical objects involved requires a real-time, accurate, and semantic understanding of the environment.

Read more at Intrinsic Blog

We can X-Ray Gadgets we Review Now! - Lumafield CT Scanner

Making Robot Programming User Friendly with the Workbench for Offline Robotics Development (SWORD)

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Matt Robinson

🔖 Topics: Robot Programming

🏢 Organizations: Southwest Research Institute

Over the years, the ROS-I Consortium has held frequent roadmapping sessions with a wide variety of end users and ROS developers, to address ease-of-use and continuing education. The identified need is a lower barrier of entry for non-programmers (or entry-level developers) to harness the power of tools in the ROS ecosystem, but in a way that aligns with industry adoption of digital thread and industry 4.0 strategies. The traditional ROS workflow is software programming intense, requiring developers deeply familiar with available ROS libraries and tools. Even experienced developers within the ROS-I ecosystem, and beyond, may spend significant time (days to weeks) on the initial setup and configuration of a ROS application. Listening to the voice of our own developers, our diverse stakeholders, and consortium members, we heard the need for easier access to the ROS motion planning tools, while maintaining a tie back to the CAD ecosystem where the products to be worked on are conceived and maintained.

SwRI is launching the SwRI Workbench for Offline Robotics Development (SWORD)™ featuring a graphical toolkit for developing and testing advanced robotic motion-planning applications. SWORD is implemented as a plugin to the open-source FreeCAD application, allowing users to integrate robotics capabilities into a cross-platform CAD environment. It provides a graphical interface to many powerful motion-planning libraries. The goal is to bring ROS to a manufacturing/industrial audience in a way that is more approachable and resides in an environment that is familiar. Most manufacturing engineers are competent with CAD and understand their processes, often doing various forms of programs on process-oriented systems. SWORD seeks to bring advanced motion-planning capability to this audience enabling to set up their systems and take advantage of these more advanced tools in their operational environments.

Read more at SwRI Blog

Inside the Automated Warehouses of Retail Titans

How to Build a $20 Billion Semiconductor Fab

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Brian Potter

🏭 Vertical: Semiconductor

To create this environment, a modern semiconductor fab typically consists of four levels. The heart of the fab is the cleanroom level; the factory floor where the fabrication process actually takes place. Below the cleanroom is the sub-fab, one or more levels (typically two) that contain the ducts, piping, wiring, and equipment needed to support the cleanroom operations. And above the cleanroom level is an interstitial space with fans and filters used for recirculating air into the cleanroom below.

The cleanroom level contains the process tools: the individual pieces of equipment that perform the various operations discussed above. Tools range from lithography machines (such as ASML’s EUV machines), to chemical vapor deposition machines, to ion implanters, to “wet benches” for cleaning and etching, and so on. These machines are made by a small handful of specialty manufacturers such as ASML, Lam Research, Applied Materials, and Tokyo Electron, and are incredibly expensive. Major process machines can cost $5-$10 million, and some can cost upwards of $100 million. ASML’s cutting edge photolithography machines cost nearly $400 million.

Process tools will be clustered together by type; this allows the tools to share requirements for things like chemical and gas lines (it’s easier to run piping if all the demand for a certain chemical is in one place), and it makes it possible to isolate certain contaminants. Since copper impurities can have catastrophic effects on semiconductor behavior, parts of the process that use copper (such as the tools depositing microscopic copper wiring) might be isolated from other parts of the fab. HVAC systems will similarly be isolated between different process zones. To minimize interference from things like columns or load-bearing walls, the roof of the fab is typically supported by large, long-spanning trusses which allow the cleanroom space to be as open as possible.

Read more at Construction Physics

SWR-TIPTIG Cobot for Gas Tungsten Arc Welding

New Product Introduction

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

Arm Brings Transformers to IoT Devices

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Sally Ward-Foxton

🏢 Organizations: Arm

The next generation of Arm’s Ethos micro-NPU, Ethos-U85, is designed to support transformer operations, bringing generative AI models to IoT devices. The IP giant is seeing demand for transformer workloads at the edge, according to Paul Williamson, senior VP and general manager for Arm’s IoT line of business, though in much smaller forms than their bigger brothers, large language models (LLMs). For example, Arm has ported vision transformer ViT-Tiny and generative language model TinyLlama-1.1B to the Ethos-U85 so far.

Read more at EETimes

Bavarian brew: Tapping into innovation with wastewater recycling

📅 Date:

🏭 Vertical: Beverage

🏢 Organizations: Xylem, Technical University of Munich

In an innovative move to tackle Europe’s escalating water scarcity, global water technology leader Xylem, announced the launch of Reuse Brew. This unique Bavarian beer, crafted from high-quality treated wastewater, marks a significant advancement in water recycling technologies and offers a sustainable solution to the increasing challenges posed by climate change.

The development of Reuse Brew is the culmination of a partnership between the Chair of Brewery and Beverage Technology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the Chair of Urban Water Systems Engineering at TUM, the city of Weissenburg in Bavaria, and Xylem. This collaboration showcases the transformative potential of advanced water treatment technologies in producing a palatable beer, promoting sustainable water management practices across Europe.

Read more at Smart Water Magazine

7-Axis Cobots Feature “World’s First” Integration of Controller Into the Base

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Cobot

🏢 Organizations: Kassow Robots

Kassow Robots released its Edge Edition 7-axis cobot that features a reduced footprint and is suitable for use in locations with limited floor space or mobile applications.

The Kassow Robots team reduced the size of its traditional external robotics controller to allow it to be integrated into the base of its Edge Edition robots. The new controller’s footprint measures only 160 x 200 millimeters, and its volume has been reduced by 90% compared to the classic controller.

The defining feature of Kassow Robots’ KR series and Edge Edition Cobots is located at the top of the J2 arm.

This unique feature can prevent a robot from reaching a singularity and alarming out during operation. A singularity occurs when two joints are aligned or near the edge of the travel limits. Depending on the type of motion that is defined when programming, singularities may not be able to be avoided.

For example, if the robot has to enter a small compartment, a linear move may be the only option to prevent a crash, but this can cause a single axis to exceed its limits. With this additional axis, the robot now has more flexibility during programming and can prevent unnecessary alarms for new programmers.

Read more at Control Automation

FANUC’s New CRX-10iA/L Paint: World’s First Global Ex-Proof Collaborative Paint Robot

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Cobot, Robot Painting

🏢 Organizations: FANUC

Global automation leader FANUC America unveils the new CRX-10iA/L Paint collaborative robot at Automate 2024. As the first explosion-proof collaborative paint robot for use and sale globally, FANUC’s CRX-10iA/L Paint cobot will unlock the benefits of automation for more companies in the painting, powder and/or gel coating with fiberglass reinforcement industries. The new FANUC cobot not only will help boost all types of paint operations including high-mix, low-volume applications, but also is designed to comply with the stringent explosion-proof safety standards required in the United States.

The CRX-10iA/L Paint cobot has a payload of 10 kg as well as the longest reach in its class at 1,418mm, allowing the cobot to access large workpieces in even the most difficult of places that can pose ergonomic challenges for humans to manually reach. Featuring the same smooth and rounded design of the CRX series, the CRX-10iA/L Paint cobot is lightweight at 45 kg and has a small footprint, which can be further enhanced by stacking the control unit onto a light and compact R-30iB Mini Plus controller. Along with the other CRX cobots, the CRX-10iA/L Paint is maintenance-free for 8 years adding to ownership savings and boosting operations.

Read more at FANUC

Industrial Policy

How governments are shaping the future industrial landscape.

🗺️ The $9tn question: how to pay for the green transition

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Attracta Mooney

The importance of rapidly raising the cash has become even more apparent after almost 200 countries agreed last year to “transition away” from fossil fuels by 2050, as well as triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030.

The International Energy Agency estimates that the public sector will have to stump up about 30 per cent of climate finance globally needed, with 70 per cent coming from the private sector. Governments are expected to play a key role in financing infrastructure that is crucial to the green transition, such as grids, as well as in adapting economies for climate change, for example by building sea walls or flood defences.

Read more at Financial Times

🇳🇬 Nigeria secures $600 million Maersk investment in seaport infrastructure

📅 Date:

Nigeria secured a $600 million investment in seaport infrastructure from Danish shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk. Nigeria has promised to revamp its ports, including in the commercial capital Lagos, to ease congestion that frustrates businesses. Tinubu said during the meeting that his government would support the modernisation and automation of its ports to improve trade, reduce corruption and boost efficiency.

Read more at Reuters

🇬🇧 ArcelorMittal warns that one of its main divisions could quit UK

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Sylvia Pfeifer

ArcelorMittal has warned the UK government that one of its main divisions may be forced to leave the country if an application to redevelop a commercial port in south-east England is approved this week. The world’s second-largest steel company said a decision to allow the closure and subsequent redevelopment of a part of Chatham Docks in Kent would have “seismic adverse consequences” for the British economy and multiple strategic industries.

Read more at Financial Times

Business Transactions

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

Hysata raises $111m USD led by bp Ventures and Templewater

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event, Green Hydrogen

🏢 Organizations: Hysata, bp, Templewater, POSCO

Australia-based company Hysata is developing new high-efficiency electrolysers that aim to produce green hydrogen at scale with higher energy efficiency and lower costs than alternative technologies. The company’s technology combines engineering and science in a unique capillary-fed alkaline electrolyser that uses less energy to convert water to hydrogen.

bp Ventures and Templewater led the recent $111.3 million USD investment round in the company, with strong backing from existing major strategic and financial investors IP Group Australia, Kiko Ventures (IP Group plc’s cleantech platform), Virescent Ventures on behalf of Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Hostplus, Vestas Ventures and BlueScopeX. The company also welcomed new major strategic and financial investors POSCO Holdings, POSCO E&C, IMM Investment Hong Kong, Shinhan Financial Group, Twin Towers Ventures, Oman Investment Authority’s VC arm IDO and TelstraSuper.

Hysata will use the funding to expand production capacity at its iconic beachside manufacturing facility in Wollongong, New South Wales and further develop its technology as it focuses on reaching gigawatt scale manufacturing.

Read more at PR Newswire

Li Industries Raises Series B Funding to Expand Next-Generation Battery Recycling Technology

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Li Industries, Bosch, Khosla Ventures, LG, Chevron

Li Industries announced the successful raise of a $36M Series B funding round to scale up its next-generation lithium-ion battery recycling technologies. The round was co-led by Bosch Ventures, Khosla Ventures and LG Technology Ventures with Formosa Smart Energy Tech Corp., Anglo American Decarbonization Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures coming in as new investors. They join existing investors, Shell Ventures and Myriad Ventures, to back Li Industries’ mission of providing the most circular, cost-effective, and sustainable solution for lithium-ion battery materials, under the guidance of Nobel Laureate Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham. Given investors’ interest, Li Industries plans to expand the round to $42M, which would bring its total private funding to more than $50M.

This new round of funding solidifies Li Industries’ growth trajectory to meet its partners’ growing needs for battery recycling services and battery materials. The capital raised will be used to construct a 10,000 ton recycling facility powered by Li Industries’ proprietary Direct Electrode-to-Electrode (Direct E2ETM) recycling technology. This expansion builds on the company’s Series A funding, which enabled the development of a 500-ton battery recycling facility in Pineville, NC, and a 1,000-ton battery sorting facility in Charlotte, NC.

Read more at PR Newswire

Lucid Bots Raises $9M Series A to Scale Productive Robotics Solutions

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Lucid Bots, Cubit Capital

Lucid Bots Inc., an industry leader in cutting-edge robotics for labor-intensive tasks, announced that it has raised $9.1M in Series A funding led by Cubit Capital, with participation from Idea Fund Partners, Danu Venture Group, and existing investors that include Y Combinator’s Growth Fund and Gratus Capital. Lucid Bots will utilize the funding to advance its portfolio of autonomous robotic solutions, including its flagship Sherpa cleaning drone and Lavo Bot pressure washing robot products, while rapidly scaling its operations and team to better serve its growing customer base and expand its platform into new markets.

Lucid Bots has built a capital-efficient infrastructure encompassing manufacturing, repairs, training, and customer success domestically built in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company’s solutions are redefining the landscape of autonomous commercial-grade cleaning technology for numerous customers across the commercial, industrial, and municipal sectors.

Read more at PR Newswire

MIT spin-off Rapid Liquid Print raises $7M for 3D printing

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Dean Takahashi

🔖 Topics: Funding Event, Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing

🏢 Organizations: Rapid Liquid Print, HZG Group, BMW, MIT

MIT spin-off Rapid Liquid Print has raised $7 million in funding for its novel liquid-based 3D printing technology. Boston-based Rapid Liquid Print was founded as an additive manufacturing startup in 2015 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Germany’s HZG Group led the investment round, joined by BMW i Ventures and MassMutual through MM Catalyst Fund (MMCF).

The name of the company says it all: Rapid Liquid Print is a new 3D printing process developed at MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab in Boston. In this innovative process, a liquid object is “drawn” in three dimensions within a gel suspension. A gantry system injects a liquid material mixture into a container filled with a specifically engineered gel, drawing the desired object into three-dimensional space via a nozzle. The gel holds the object in suspension – as if in zero gravity – while the object cures during printing.

The entire printing process takes minutes and requires no additional support structures to be printed. The printed objects can be used immediately without post-processing.

Read more at VentureBeat

AI robotic arm to tackle labour shortages: Swiss startup mimic grabs $2.5M funding

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: mimic, Founderful, ETH Zurich

In the race to develop the first commercially available humanoid robot primarily concentrated in the US, mimic has closed a pre-seed round of $2.5 million. The round was led by early-stage Swiss investor Founderful, which invested in Isospec Analytics, together with participation from German-based fund, UK-based, which invested in UltiHash, and a lineup of angel investors.

Spinning out from the research university ETH Zurich, mimic was founded by researchers Elvis Nava, Stefan Weirich, Stephan-Daniel Gravert, and Benedek Forrai in 2024. The founding team was working at the intersection of robotics and AI under Professor Robert Katzschmann’s Soft Robotic Labs when they became increasingly convinced that the latest developments in large-scale generative AI models would upend a multitude of industries, beyond just language and image generation.

As per the company, its solution will enable a robot with humanoid hands to understand and imitate any behaviour, simply by watching a human perform it. This deviates from the conventional robotic solutions and focuses on specific use cases. Since each use case requires expensive ad-hoc engineering and comprehensive pre-programmed movements, robots are only able to complete the narrowly specific task they are designed for. Most use cases are stationary and do not require a full humanoid robot with legs, so they have developed a robotic arm.

Read more at TFN

Momenta Leads Investment in Composabl, Expanding Industrial AI and Autonomy

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Composabl, Momenta, Advantech, Rockwell Automation

Momenta leads the seed round for Composabl, a trailblazer in industrial AI and autonomy, joined by Ridgeline Ventures, Exposition Capital, and Hannah Gray Ventures. Composabl’s unique approach empowers engineers to deploy real-time autonomous agents for manufacturing and logistics, supported by Momenta’s investment and industry endorsements.

Composabl’s unique approach to autonomous AI represents a step change in industrial process capabilities and will drive advancements and efficiency for manufacturing and logistics. Built for industrial process engineers, not data scientists, Composabl helps create real-time process optimization AI agents, driving toward autonomous operations. Momenta’s investment will provide Composabl with the resources and support needed to accelerate the growth of its platform and market presence.

This is the sixteenth company receiving investment from Momenta’s Digital Industry Fund III, anchored by Advantech, the world leader in digital industrial solutions. This is also the first company to receive investment from Momenta’s Digital Industry Fund IV, anchored by Rockwell Automation, the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and digital transformation.

Read more at PRWeb