Featured in Tomorrow Unlocked – 4 March 2021
It’s the shift from automation of manufacturing equipment to autonomy. Once we start seeing autonomous factories, it follows that they will start being able to talk to each other. So, if we discover we need hundreds or thousands of ventilators urgently, that shouldn’t take six months, it should take six days!
We make pieces of metal and we send them to other manufacturers to assemble into products like aircraft or cars or satellites or consumer electronics or medical devices. All of these things rely on pieces of precision metal components. Today, machines are automatic in that if I want to make something, let’s say a part for a robot, I can give a machine cutting instructions and it will follow those instructions over and over again. It will make thousands if I want, but the problem is I had to create those instructions. So as soon as we want the machine to do something new, you need a highly expert human machine programmer to get involved. Contrast that to autonomy, which is where I tell the machine, “make this for me”, and it knows how to make it faster and better and cheaper and more reliably than I ever could.
We are making the entire end-to-end journey from quoting a part through to making, inspecting and shipping it autonomous. Then I want to create a copy paste factory blueprint that allows you to fire in your customer’s 3d files at one end, and get finished parts at the other. And nobody made a decision in the middle. It’s the shift from automation of manufacturing equipment to autonomy. And that shift is going to unlock the end-to-end autonomous supply chain.
If we want to put a part like this in a CNC machine, there are hundreds of cutting tools in the machine that can be used in any order, cutting at any speed/angle/depth/width. There are dozens of ways of holding the material as you cut it. The harmonic vibration frequenciess change in the component as material is removed. It is a combinatorial explosion of possibility compared to a 3d printer. The problem is how do we make this quickly and accurately when there’s a trillion ways of doing it. There are all of these incredibly complex technical problems that stack on top of each other, and we have to solve all of them, if we want to create an end-to-end autonomous factory.
You can take the same process and make it output 10 or a hundred times more than it could before you say, I want to plane or a microwave or a satellite, and you call it from the assembly factory. And it just knows which factories to go to to get parts, it knows how to assemble them. And so, as soon as you’ve ordered your satellite, all the parts are already on their way through the supply chain. Something can be made pretty much immediately that would take years today.
The difference that’s going to make in terms of efficiency of production, of the carbon footprint of manufacturing, to the speed of engineering innovation is going to be extraordinary, solving that as a problem that I’m very happy to dedicate my life to…