11 March 2021
Sam McMillan By Sam McMillan

5 Companies Revolutionising Manufacturing with AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the manufacturing landscape and the implications are set to be huge.

With the right combination of hardware and software, AI enabled robotics will have an application in manufacturing for nearly every industry. Processes will become quicker, more accurate and more cost-effective.

Already, we’ve seen technologies advance in generative design, industry 4.0, human-robot collaboration, smart maintenance, autonomous vehicles and more.

With no sign of this AI revolution slowing down, I wanted to share with you five of the most exciting companies and technologies impacting the manufacturing space.

We kick off with a US company that’s helping solve labour shortages in manufacturing with its autonomous, AI-driven robotic arm solution.

RAPID Robotics’ Rapid Machine Operator (RMO) is a six-axis robot pre-loaded with industrial robotic programming to execute common tasks such as pad printing, injection moulding, heat staking, heat stamping, ultrasonic welding, pack and place, inspections and more.

This technology’s pre-programmed robotics requires a lot less training than other robots that’s you’d find on today’s market. It more or less works out of the box, thanks to its on-board AI which also allows the RMO to continue to learn on the job.

This intuition means that RAPID Robotics’ technology can be easily integrated into multiple manufacturing facilities, quickly. So, manufacturers start to benefit from the system immediately and see a return on their $25K investment (the cost of the system) within months.

Having raised $5.5 million in seed funding in November 2020, RAPID Robotics is expected to continue to develop its innovative technology and support manufacturers with pioneering AI-driven solutions.

Like RAPID Robotics, Bright Machines’ Microfactories also automate repetitive tasks to increase manufacturing capacity and improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

However, unlike RAPID Robotics, the Bright Machines technology is solely focused on improving the back end of production. This includes tasks like assembly, fastening, welding, dispensing, pressing, labelling and camera/machine vision for testing and inspection.

Bright Machines Microfactories use one or more Bright Robotic Cells (BRCs) to form an automated assembly line. Each BRC has a standard configuration which includes the chassis, electrical cabinet, robot arm, power supply and touch screen display.

The technology is easy to start-up, with no programming required. It supports automated material feeding too, which enables the assembly line to run for extended periods of time without requiring human operators to load materials into it.

Using the technology, which incorporates a combination of adaptive hardware and intelligent software, assembly lines can be configured quickly and streamlined effectively. The company claim that, with its Microfactories, lines can be deployed in half the time traditionally required.

Vecna Robotics provides similar efficiencies, streamlining materials handling and logistics with its autonomous mobile robots (AMR).

Like other the other technologies discussed, autonomous vehicles improve productivity and efficiency. These vehicles can complete mundane tasks while operators handled value-added jobs, helping companies utilise their workforce more effectively.

CM Industrial recently wrote an article on this technology in an article titled: “A New Era for Construction & Agricultural Machinery.” Give it a read after this, it’s interesting stuff.

Anyway, back to Vecna Robotics and its offering which includes an array of industry leading autonomous vehicles including counterbalanced fork trucks, pallet trucks and tow tractors/tuggers.

The company’s autonomous counterbalanced fork truck helps move a wider range of payloads and pallet types. It has high lifting capabilities, versatile pallet handling, integrated handoffs and more.

The autonomous pallet truck, for warehousing and distribution, eliminates long hauls and improves put-away efficiency for lift operators. With advanced pallet handling, dynamic route planning, multi pallet hauling, LPN Scanning and opportunistic charging to run 24/7; this technology is revolutionising the way that warehouses operate.

As the third and final part of the offering, Vecna Robotics provides manufacturers with autonomous tow tractor/tuggers for tugging long distance hauls and heavy payloads. They can reach high speeds, carry up to 10,000 lbs and adapt to different of workflows.

Using Vecna Robotics’ autonomous technologies, a FedEx sortation hub in Greensboro, North Carolina, has been able to increases its throughput by 30%.

Having received $50 million in funding last year, the company is well-placed for growth. Vecna Robotics expects to reach a valuation of over $5 billion by 2023, as it continues to innovate within the autonomous vehicle space.

ANYbotics is also innovating in this market segment, with its four-legged autonomous robot platform. The third generation of this, ANYmal C, now resembles a technology of advanced maturity, autonomy and reliability.

ANYmal C autonomously delivers data monitoring and routine inspections in complex industrial environments. This frees-up human operators, for whom these tasks are tedious, tiring and potentially hazardous.

ANYmal C’s onboard sensing means that it can safely navigate its way through sites, understanding its position and perceiving obstacles.

Equipped with a modular payload, the robot integrates a variety of inspections sensors including LIDAR, spotlight, thermal camera and optical zoom. Its intelligent inspection algorithms read these sensors to survey the environment for anomalies like hot spots and gas leakages.

This provides manufacturers with continuous, safe inspection and monitoring capabilities. Using the data that the robot collects, it is also able to produce AI-enabled insights which helps human operators make informed decisions to optimise operations and improve safety.

Founded as a spin off from ETH Zurich in 2016, ANYbotics has continued to innovate with its four-legged autonomous robot platform which was first shipped to customers last year.

With equally innovative and exciting plans to revolutionise manufacturing, Robust.AI is building the world’s first industrial grade cognitive engine. 

This cognitively driven AI platform will give robots the problem-solving capabilities they need to work alongside humans in dynamic, open-ended environments. Doing so, will vastly increase the potential for robotics to discover applications in more areas of manufacturing (which have been left untapped due the complexity of human-robot collaboration).

For more information on how human-robot collaboration is beginning to enter manufacturing, have a read of this article: “New Robotics are Unlocking Untapped Areas in Manufacturing.”

Nevertheless, let’s continue with Robust.AI and its plans for a powerful software stack which will support the build and deployment of semantically aware robots. The aim is to achieve this by injecting cognition and common sense into the robotics.

If the company achieved this, it could revolutionise the use of robotics within manufacturing. This excitement of the technology’s potential is reflected in Robust.AI’s financial backing, which stands at $22.5 million worth of funding.

Manufacturing’s AI revolution shows no signs of slowing down, as adoption of these innovations continues to rise. Manufacturers have continued to see the value in automation and its thanks to companies like Robust.AI image, ANYbotics, Vecna Robotics, Bright Machines and RAPID Robotics that they’re able adopt these pioneering technologies.

This is a rapidly growing space and I appreciate that I’ve not included a number of incredibly innovative companies. But unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write an article called ‘100 Companies Revolutionising Manufacturing with AI’ – after all, my main job is recruitment.

I’d love to hear your feedback on the article. If you’d like to talk about the technologies I’ve included or one that I’ve missed, please email me at Sam.McMillan@industrial.com.

For more information about my recruitment services, please visit my consultant page.

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Sam McMillan

Sam focuses on building tech-focused teams globally across the Industrial & Manufacturing Automation space.  If you are searching for professionals in Software & Cloud Development, DevOps & Infrastructure or Tech leadership within this domain, he's your man. Sam has a track record of successfully aiding the growth of technical teams, along with providing collaborative solutions for both his clients and candidates.

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