Manufacturing Disruption with Software


Shop Talk

Capturing this week's zeitgeist

The 2024 CNBC Disruptor 50 dropped this week. I enjoy lists like these to validate I’m not missing anything within my coverage universe of manufacturing and supply chain technology adoption. Thank you for reading and sharing Exponential Industry to stay ahead of the trends in industrial technology!

Exponential Industry Index (CNBC rank) organizations with strong signals on product market fit and wide industry adoption.

Covered companies but need more signal on their technological capabilities and adoption within industry.

🛡️ The NFL schedule also dropped this week, with an enjoyable video of the reigning champs, Kansas City, crushing their upcoming competition.

Kaizen Blitz

  • 📊 Survey Says
  • 🏭💰 Factory Investments
    • Midwestern USA rises with Polar Semi investing $525 million for its Bloomington, Minnesota manufacturing facility, 3M’s $67 million into a PPE facility in Valley, Nebraska, and Toyota Material Handling $100M into assembly in Columbus, Indiana.
    • Universal Robots and MiR open new robotics hub in Denmark

Assembly Line

This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media.

World's highest-efficiency hydrogen system scales up for mass production

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Loz Blain

🏢 Organizations: Hysata

You have to throw some energy away to make hydrogen – typically around 20-30%, even with the best systems, which use around 52.5 kWh of energy to create a kilogram of hydrogen that can store 39.4 kWh of energy. It’s a waste of renewable energy, and it contributes to the high cost of a green fuel option that’s really struggling to compete against fossils and batteries in many applications.

That’s what makes Australian company Hysata’s capillary-fed electrolyzer such an interesting device; at 95% efficiency, it uses just 41.5 kWh of energy to create that kilogram of hydrogen, cutting down operational costs for hydrogen producers – while also cutting down on CAPEX by being cheaper to install and run, to boot. The result: the cheapest green hydrogen going around.

Read more at New Atlas

What software automation means for custom fabrication

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✍️ Author: Caleb Chamberlain

🏢 Organizations: OSH Cut

OSH Cut is a different kind of business, but is it disruptive? That’s a loaded term. It conjures imagery of arrogant technophiles sauntering into an industry, breaking and remaking it, then exiting five or 10 years later with gold-lined pockets. Manufacturing has always been about providing real, sustained physical value. Manufacturers’ “long-haul thinking” is inimical to the scale-and-exit strategy sometimes trumpeted by the world’s self-proclaimed disrupters. So, when people wonder if our business model is disruptive, it makes me wary.

Manufacturers are in some ways shielded from the chaos. There are only so many ways to make parts out of metal, and new technologies—like metal 3D printing—aren’t even remotely cost-competitive compared to more traditional processes. If that ever changes, fabricators are a single machine purchase away from taking advantage. Widespread use of fiber lasers, cobots, modern brakes, and other automation indicates that manufacturers are plugged in and evolving with technology.

To me, software automation isn’t so much a disruptive tech as it is the next logical step for manufacturing. Fabricators understand waste and how to fix it. Software really just adds new, powerful tools to the toolbox. OSH Cut isn’t unique because we are better at making metal than other shops. We’ve only been around for five years—how could we be? We also aren’t the best software company in the world. But it’s the intersection of those skill sets that has allowed us to optimize for our market niche: We can make great software, designed specifically to solve our particular problems.

Read more at The Fabricator

From Autodesk CEO to Tinkering with Autonomous Cars, 3D Printing & Nuclear Fusion

Singapore's industrial robot startups eye global markets

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Tsubasa Suruga

🏢 Organizations: Lionsbot, Eureka Robotics

Founded in 2018, Lionsbot builds autonomous cleaning robots for small offices and large commercial and industrial settings, such as airports, warehouses, museums and hospitals. The company has four models selling for between $25,000 and $90,000. One of its more compact models, the R3 Scrub, is 81 centimeters tall, 60 cm long, 45 cm wide and weighs 60 kilograms.

Using high-precision sensors and AI systems, the robots are programmed to clean tight spaces and require only remote supervision. Cleaners can use mobile apps to control a fleet of dozens of robots on multiple floors simultaneously and receive real-time updates on the robots’ progress. Lionsbot designed the robots from scratch with the help of Mohan Rajesh Elara, a professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Eureka Robotics is another local startup targeting the global market. In April, the company announced a joint project with Japanese tire maker Bridgestone’s corporate venture arm to develop robotic arms for warehouses that can pick up various objects. The company’s strength lies in its core software and AI technology that can connect various robotics arms – even those made by different manufacturers – using 3D cameras and sensors to perform specialized tasks.

Due to its higher operating costs, Singaporean robotics companies have a hard time competing with Chinese rivals on price. So local companies are targeting more developed markets like the U.S., Europe and Japan, where demand for automation is rising due to higher wages and staff shortages.

Read more at Nikkei Asia

Designing Sustainable Electric Motors

New Technique Improves Finishing Time for 3D Printed Machine Parts

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✍️ Author: Matt Shipman

🔖 Topics: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Quality Assurance

🏢 Organizations: North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University researchers have demonstrated a technique that allows people who manufacture metal machine parts with 3D printing technologies to conduct automated quality control of manufactured parts during the finishing process. The technique allows users to identify potential flaws without having to remove the parts from the manufacturing equipment, making production time more efficient. Specifically, the researchers have integrated 3D printing, automated machining, laser scanning and touch-sensitive measurement technologies with related software to create a largely automated system that produces metal machine components that meet critical tolerances.

When end users need a specific part, they pull up a software file that includes the measurements of the desired part. A 3D printer uses this file to print the part, which includes metal support structures. Users then take the printed piece and mount it in a finishing device using the support structure. At this point, lasers scan the mounted part to establish its dimensions. A software program then uses these dimensions and the desired critical tolerances to guide the finishing device, which effectively polishes out any irregularities in the part. As this process moves forward, the finishing device manipulates the orientation of the printed part so that it can be measured by a touch-sensitive robotic probe that ensures the part’s dimensions are within the necessary parameters.

Read more at NCSU News

Microsoft AI Showcase for Manufacturing: Cognite Data Fusion

New Product Introduction

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

Cognex Launches the World's First 3D Vision System with AI

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Machine Vision

🏢 Organizations: Cognex

Cognex Corporation released the In-Sight® L38 3D Vision System, which combines AI, 2D, and 3D vision technologies to solve a range of inspection and measurement applications. The system creates unique projection images that combine 3D information into an easy-to-label 2D image for simplified training and reveals features not visible with traditional 2D imaging. AI tools detect variable or undefined features, while rule-based algorithms provide 3D measurements to deliver reliable inspection results.

The In-Sight L38 greatly simplifies the process of configuring 3D systems thanks to embedded AI technology that uses pre-trained models with domain-specific data. Example-based training replaces complex programming steps, which previously required combining many traditional rule-based tools, to streamline application development. The unique AI-powered 3D tools can be set up in minutes, requiring as few as 5 to 10 labeled images to automate a task. With one tool, users can detect challenging defects, gauge variances in three dimensions, and get results in real-world units.

Read more at PR Newswire

Manhattan Redefines Supply Chain Planning for the Modern Age

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🔖 Topics: Supply Chain Control Tower

🏢 Organizations: Manhattan Associates

Manhattan Active Supply Chain Planning is the first and only solution unified with supply chain execution to eliminate systemic and operational silos, unlocking enterprise-wide optimization for the entire inventory assortment and all the resources required to flow it through the supply chain. From inventory and labor to distribution and transportation, all elements are synchronized and harmonized in real-time, seamlessly united under a single plan.

Manhattan Active Supply Chain Planning harnesses the power of AI to combine external data sources with internal patterns to produce more accurate and actionable demand forecasts. This innovative solution is capable of ingesting and rapidly processing vast amounts of syndicated data from external sources, such as influencer activity, industry-specific data sources, and localized data, all of which can influence and shape demand.

Read more at Business Wire

Business Transactions

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

cylib raises €55M to scale its lithium battery recycling facility

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: cylib, World Fund, Porsche

Aachen, Germany-based cylib, a sustainable end-to-end battery recycling firm, announced that it has raised €55M in a Series A funding round in equity financing. The latest funding was co-led by World Fund, and Porsche Ventures, with participation from Bosch Ventures, DeepTech & Climate Fonds, and NRW.Venture. Existing investors Vsquared Ventures, Speedinvest, 10x Founders, and established business angels, also participated. The round, which is the largest round ever raised by a European battery recycling company, was completed less than 24 months after the company started operations. With a team of over 60 professionals, the company plans to use the funds to make key hires.

The company’s proprietary end-to-end recycling technology was developed over several years of research at the renowned RWTH Aachen University. It enables every component in a lithium-ion battery to be recycled, making it the only company on the market to offer clients a way to recover all elements from production scraps, EVs, or micro-mobility batteries. The company claims to have outperformed long-awaited industry break-even points by reaching a recycling efficiency of> 90 per cent while reducing the environmental footprint (GHG-potential) of the recycling process due to cylib’s water-based Lithium and Graphite recovery by 30% in comparison to competitors.

Read more at Silicon Canals

CoLab Software raises $21M to help hardware engineering teams accelerate product development

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: CoLab Software, Insight Partners

CoLab Software, a technology company building collaboration solutions for mechanical engineering and hardware development teams, announced its fully subscribed Series B round with $21M USD in funding. Global software investor Insight Partners led the round, with participation from existing major investors, including Y Combinator, Killick Capital, and Pelorus VC.

The funding will be used to reach new customers and accelerate development of technology, including artificial intelligence. CoLab will also invest in expanding relationships with existing customers, an effort that has yielded successful results so far with 158% net revenue retention (NRR) in the last 12 months.

CoLab will also use the funds to expand its team, adding 30-40 new roles at headquarters in St. John’s, Newfoundland and remotely across Canada and the United States. This will include three key executive hires: a VP of Sales, a VP of People, and a VP of Customer Success.

Read more at Business Wire

Ndustrial Announces $18.5M Series B

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Ndustrial, ABB, GS Energy

Ndustrial, the AI-powered energy intensity platform for industry, announced the initial close of $18.5 million in a Series B funding round co-led by ABB and GS Energy, joining existing partners such as Clean Energy Ventures and ENGIE New Ventures. The capital will be used to power growth and accelerate innovation to help industrial companies optimize the crucial metric of energy intensity — the amount of energy, emissions and cost required for one unit of production. Ndustrial will also partner with ABB and GS Energy to offer its energy intensity solutions to industrial customers, further advancing its mission to unite hard-to-access energy and production data in real time to deliver transformative economic and decarbonization value.

Read more at PR Newswire

Founders Fund leads financing of composites startup Layup Parts

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Layup Parts, Founders Fund, Anduril

Scarcely five months after its founding, hard tech startup Layup Parts has landed a $9 million round of financing led by Founders Fund to transform composites manufacturing. Lux Capital and Haystack also participated. Eakin, Layup’s CEO, would still be with Anduril, he says, if not for the idea to found Layup. “It was born out of a need that we had at Anduril — a need that the world has that became poignant during my time there,” he said.

Most areas of manufacturing have changed over the course of Eakin’s career, except composites, he said. Companies like Protolabs, Xometry and Fictiv have innovated processes like CNC-machining, sheet metal cutting and injection molding. These companies (and many others) have developed a frictionless, almost Amazon-like experience to getting hardware manufactured rapidly, and that’s left a permanent mark on the industry.

But there’s been no equivalent innovation in composite parts manufacturing. There are a few reasons for this, Eakin said. The first is that existing composites manufacturers aren’t well leveraged to develop the software tools required to do it well; the other is that composites are more artisanal and less easily automatable in certain steps of the process. So bringing the number of humans in the manufacturing loop close to zero is inherently more tricky.

Read more at TechCrunch

Bedrock Materials Secures $9 Million Seed Funding

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Bedrock Materials, Trucks Venture Capital, Refactor Capital, Version One Ventures, Stanford University

Bedrock Materials, a pioneering battery technology startup launched out of Stanford University in 2023, announced a successful close of $9 million in seed funding alongside the inauguration of its new Research & Development (R&D) headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The financing round was led by Trucks Venture Capital, Refactor Capital, and Version One Ventures. Additional investment was provided by Hanover Technology Investment Management, SpaceCadet Ventures, Brainstorm Capital, Evergreen Climate Innovations, Expansion VC, Climate Capital, Quest Venture Partners, Meliorate Partners, Valia Ventures, Ritual Capital, and several individual angel investors with strong ties to the electric vehicle and battery industries.

Bedrock Materials specializes in producing essential materials for low-cost, eco-friendly sodium-ion batteries. These batteries are seen as a next-generation alternative to lithium-ion versions, utilizing affordable, widely available materials. Last month, the company began R&D scale production of battery precursor materials at its facility in Near West Chicago. Plans are underway to open a larger, permanent site later this year.

Read more at PR Newswire

Nfinite Nanotech closes USD 6.5M Seed financing to revolutionize flexible food packaging with nanotechnology

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Nfinite Nanotech, Collateral Good

Nfinite Nanotech, a creator of plastic-alternative nanocoatings, announced the completion of a USD 6.5M SEED round, led by Collateral Good, with participation from Suzano Ventures as a strategic investor alongside investment from FTW Ventures, MaRS IAF, Overlay Capital, Ponderosa, and Republic Capital, including non-dilutive funding from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada.

Nfinite Nanotech is tackling the plastic packaging problem with its advanced material nanocoating that enables the use of truly sustainable packaging at a commercial scale. Nfinite’s nanocoating is an ultrathin and high-performance barrier coating that maintains the recyclability and compostability of sustainable packaging, while also preserving the freshness and shelf life of products.

Read more at PRWeb

Novelis Files Registration Statement for Proposed Initial Public Offering

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Funding Event

🏢 Organizations: Novelis

Novelis Inc., a leading sustainable aluminum solutions provider and the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, announced that it has filed a registration statement on Form F-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) relating to the proposed initial public offering of its common shares. The common shares are expected to be offered by Novelis’ sole shareholder (a wholly owned subsidiary of Hindalco Industries Limited). Novelis will not receive any proceeds from the sale of common shares by its sole shareholder.

Novelis intends to list its common shares on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the ticker symbol “NVL.”

Read more at PR Newswire

Databricks and ARM Hub sign partnership to boost manufacturing

📅 Date:

🔖 Topics: Partnership

🏢 Organizations: Databricks, ARM Hub

ARM Hub, Australia’s leading artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and design-for-manufacture industry hub is partnering with world-leading data and AI platform, Databricks. This international alliance is set to transform Australia’s manufacturing landscape by enabling smarter decision-making through affordable, safe, relevant and up-to-date data and AI solutions.

Read more at ARM Hub