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Bright Machines raises $180 million for ‘software-defined and totally automated manufacturing’

Startup company Bright Machines has raised almost $180 million in Series A funding to expand its “software-defined manufacturing” and “totally automated manufacturing” offerings.

Bright Machines describes software-defined manufacturing as the application of artificial intelligence to the $7 trillion manufacturing industry.

The term “software-defined” is generally applied to computer networks, in the reasonably well-known phrase software-defined networks or networking. 

It refers to the trend of networks becoming less dependent on specific types or brands of hardware for smooth functioning.

Instead, software is the critical component, and any open-source hardware can be used, which is supposed to work out cheaper.

Making the software the central element is also supposed to enable the use of artificial intelligence systems to manage entire networks or operations.

Bright Machines says software, machine learning and artificial intelligence have been discussed in the manufacturing context for years, but using artificial intelligence and machine learning in place of humans today can result in production methods that are just as slow and expensive.

Manufacturing needs to be overhauled to actually see true autonomy and massive productivity gains, says Bright Machines.

The company’s leadership team includes senior executives from Google, Tesla and Siemens.

Bright Machines’ CEO is Amar Hanspal, a former interim CEO of Autodesk. Its board includes Carl Bass, former CEO of Autodesk; Mike McNamara, chairman of Flex; Steve Luszo, CEO of Seagate.

The $179 million Series A funding round was led by Eclipse Ventures.

The company is based in San Francisco, CA with factories worldwide

Bright Machines says it brings together four key technologies needed for “complex and totally automated manufacturing”:

  • advanced robotics;
  • computer vision;
  • machine learning; and
  • digitized industry experience.

Bright Machines’ first focus is building out AI that acts as an “industry expert” in the manufacturing process. The company has a dozen factories around the world today, and is already running with “tens-of-millions” in revenue.

“Making physical products is hard,” says Hanspal. “At Bright Machines, we want to change that by making it as easy to manufacture physical products as it is to create digital ones.”