It has become a common belief that factories operating today are all automated by robotics, and it is also true, to some extent. But, the level of sophistication that comes with robotic automation is hard to maintain in all factories, especially those that are relatively smaller with a smaller production. Recently, a San Francisco based start-up, Bright Machines, announced one of its very first products that is specifically designed to make automation and AI reachable by all types of manufacturers, regardless of size.
The start-up is best known for making an entry into the market with $179 million in Series A funding. Bright Machines aims to make all the aspects of manufacturing a process that is done in an automated fashion defined by specific software. Amar Hanspal, the CEO of Bright Machines, knows that reaching the goal is difficult and quite challenging but has already announced version 1.0 of his long-run mission.
In an official statement made by Hanspal, he said that he, along with his team, has an idea that is fairly ambitious but is something that will fundamentally change the way factories operate. He wants to target autonomous programmable factories. The company got its initial funding in October 2018 and has since been building a team of experts from the fields of manufacturing, software and artificial intelligence. It has also brought in professionals from Amazon, Microsoft, and Autodesk, with offices in Tel Aviv and Seattle.
The product it released recently is known as the Software Defined Microfactory which consists of components of hardware as well as software working in tandem. Hanspal explained that this product packages robotics together with machine handling, computer vision and converged systems in a modular way with plug and play hardware, after which the software can instruct the different factories on what they can build and how they can build it.
This is obviously not an easy feat and has taken a lot of expertise to come together ever since the funding was made. It also required the company to have testing partners. Bright Machines has around 20 product brands all across the world and 25 lines of production in seven countries that have helped it to come out with the first version of the product which they will release in June 2019.
Since it is just starting now, the company is concentrating only on the assembly line. This is because when they build a smaller machine, like a specialised computer board or a network appliance, something where the manufacturer might produce a smaller quantity of the product, say 50,000, in total, they tend to benefit from the automation as well as justify their production costs.
According to Hanspal, the basic idea is to go after the part inside the factory which is the least automated amongst all. This part usually is the assembly line. Assembly line automation generally requires a lot of human judgment and skills, like aligning things or plugging things in.
The main goal is to create different templates for various kinds of tooling, where the companies can get a majority of work done using softwares and robotics. Although it is an ambitious goal which is not going to be easy to attain, the release of the first version will definitely be the first step.