The Modular Production Evolution Continues with Bright Machines

The Modular Production Evolution Continues with Bright Machines
The Modular Production Evolution Continues with Bright Machines

I first saw a modular production line approach demonstrated in the SmartFactory KL booth at the 2015 Hannover Messe trade show. It used standardized hardware and software modules based on open industry standards that could be linked together create production lines more efficiently. This follows a trend, started a number years ago, of modular, factory-prebuilt, skid-mounted systems for equipment. Multi-machine systems such as compressors, large filtration systems, mixing and blending systems, and clean in place (CIP) modules were delivered as complete units.

More recently the “Module Type Package” (MTP) focuses on creating standardized non-proprietary descriptions of standardized machine modules for process automation.  MTP advancing the concepts of ISA88 and ISA95 into an open vendor independent plug-and-produce models that include attributes including alarm management, safety & security, process control, HMI and maintenance diagnostics. OPC UA is used as the way to communicate Module Type Package (MTP) data between systems.

I had a discussion with Adam Montoya, VP of Industrial Solutions with Bright Machines, to learn about the company’s modular machine approach to deliver work cells to manufacturing more efficiently.  Industrial solutions from Bright Machines are the latest iteration of modular production evolution. Bright Machines offers consulting, software, and standardized work cell modules that connect to create electronic product production lines. 

Bright Machines Modular Electronic Production

Bright Machines’ goal is to “Automate Electronics Manufacturing to Boost Production & Cut Costs” based on its background as a company.  Bright Machines is a corporate spinoff that was formerly known as Autolab AI before coming out of stealth mode in 2018. It was incubated at Flex (FLEX) previously known as Flextronics International Ltd. an American Singapore domiciled multinational electronics contract manufacturer.    

Bright Machines production modules combine Bright Robotic Cells and the company’s Brightware software along with material feeding, transport systems, and end of arm tools to provide complete automation solutions for a variety of common assembly and inspection tasks used in the manufacturing of electronic products.  I asked about interfacing other applications to the Brightware software and at this time it does not have open published APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

Bright Machines believes their approach enables customers to get up and running 50% faster with pre-integrated and production-ready microfactories. Users configure production line operation without any programming using the company’s proprietary BM Recipe Builder software.

Bright Machines modular machines are used to create production lines to meet customer requirements.

Bright Machines production machine modules takes advantage of computer vision, machine learning, 3D simulation, and adaptive robotics. Currently the company focuses on electronics production to produce products up to700x560X250 mm ( 27.5 inch X 22 inch X 9.8 inch ) up to 15 kg (33 lbs.).

Bright Machines has R&D centers in the US and Israel and field operations in the US, Mexico, China and Poland.

The automation imperative

The success factors in manufacturing are changing - making it imperative that all size companies use automation as a strategic tool to compete. Labor costs are increasing in traditionally lower cost regions of the world and changing demographics will continue to be a factor driving the need for more automation. Despite a growing global population, the availability of skilled workers is actually shrinking in advanced aging countries. Emerging markets, such as China and Russia are also feeling a demographic pinch with working-age population expected to decline in many countries.

Automation is a key success factor, for companies large and small, in achieving lower costs, increased productivity and quality. A company can successfully compete only if it outperforms rivals by delivering greater value to customers or creating comparable value at a lower cost, or both. Automation is the best way to achieve this goal over the long term by improving sustainable operational effectiveness. Operational effectiveness means performing similar activities better than competing manufacturers. By waiting until competitors apply available automation, manufacturers make themselves vulnerable, keeping them in catch up mode.

About The Author

Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and WAGO), Lydon was a member of a 5 person corporate skunk works for two years that designed an innovative Building Automation System. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and cofounder/president of an industrial control software company.

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