‘Autonomous Manufacturing’ may be a new term, but autonomous technologies have become a driving force for future enterprises with big tech including Uber, Amazon, Starship putting billions of money into it. Now, CloudNC, the UK-based company developing advanced software that enables factories to manufacture precision parts autonomously, today announced it has raised $45 million in a Series B round. The round was led by Autodesk, along with Lockheed Martin and British Patient Capital participating alongside returning investors Atomico, Episode 1 Ventures, and QVentures (which also invested in AllotMe recently).
The London-headquartered tech company will use the additional capital to further develop its SaaS offering and roll out at-scale through integrations with CAD/CAM packages such as Autodesk’s platforms, and to expand its unique full-stack manufacturing capability in Essex, United Kingdom.
Precision manufacturing, an industrial process required to make parts needed for virtually every industry, from automotive and aerospace to consumer electronics and defence, is currently error prone, time-consuming and expensive. Despite increased automation, precision manufacturing’s dependency on expert manual programming makes it less efficient than other industrial processes and means it is heavily exposed to an ageing workforce.
Like Amazon, CloudNC’s approach is building a full-stack solution that allows them adequate control to roll out complex and highly efficient systems. Which means developing the solutions, owning the facilities and creating a copy/paste blueprint that can be repeated in a loop.
CloudNC’s tech is working to provide a significant degree of autonomy. A user can upload a 3D model of any part and, with one click, the software autonomously determines the tools needed, how they will be used and drafts the code to tell a CNC machine how to make it.
Computer numerical control (CNC) is a method for automating control of machine tools through the use of software embedded in a microcomputer attached to the tool. It is commonly used in manufacturing for machining metal and plastic parts.
Founded in 2015 by Theo Saville and Chris Emery, CloudNC’s software assistance allows factories to be more efficient while upskilling the workforce, since more junior employees are able to operate the machines.
Ultimately, by reducing reliance on manual machine programming, CloudNC’s advanced software will enable factories to autonomously manufacture more parts, more reliably, faster and with less waste than current processes. It will help level manufacturing costs from region to region, enabling producers to build increasingly local and resilient supply chains.
“When people think of manufacturing, they tend to think of robotic car factories, and don’t realise that the industry is dominated by craft processes reliant on dwindling expert knowledge. This makes it incredibly complex to get things made, stifling the pace of innovation,” said Theo Saville, CEO and co-founder of CloudNC. “Our solution radically simplifies and democratises precision manufacturing. The upcoming software release is a massive step in our journey to full manufacturing autonomy and solving a $200 billion problem. Our vision is for manufacturing to become so simple, it’s invisible – a single click to make nearly any product in days, not months or years, and with no worries about reliability or quality.”
“Our customers are facing constant challenges: disrupted supply chains, skills and labour shortages and having to control costs in a high inflation environment. CloudNC’s bold vision is impressive and their solution will soon allow anyone, from hobbyists to high-tech aerospace companies, to order and have parts delivered to them anywhere in the world with the click of a button,” said Stephen Hooper, vice president of Design & Manufacturing, Cloud Solutions at Autodesk. “In a similar way to how the internet opened the door to new businesses, autonomous precision manufacturing will open the door to increased productivity and more innovation.”
“CloudNC’s vision of end-to-end autonomous manufacturing creates great value to large-scale manufacturing businesses like ours,” said Chris Moran, executive director and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures. “We look forward to working with CloudNC as their vision for a fully autonomous supply chain develops and offers improved capabilities for Lockheed Martin.”