May 8, 2024

May 8, 2024

5YF Episode #15: Bright Machines CEO Lior Susan

Factory automation, humanoid robots, digital twins, building the backbone of AI and the future of manufacturing w/ Bright Machines CEO / Eclipse VC Lior Susan

5 year frontier

Future of manufacturing: machines making machines

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Today, we look ahead at our factories of the future. The culmination of numerous leaps in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sensors coming together to deliver autonomous factories of high precision and quality.

It's a greenfield. 90% of this industry is pure analogue
My takeaway - over the next 5 years:
  • Manufacturing will respond to software commands
  • Each factory will be simulated with a digital brain
  • Hard tech will attract many of the best founders

My guide to the near frontier is Lior Susan, who wears the two hats of builder (CEO of Bright Machines) and investor (Founding Partner at Eclipse VC).

Bright Machines is delivering advanced robotics and automation for manufacturing. Funded to the tune of $300M, Bright Machines operates out of the US, Mexico, and Israel. Its key funder is the VC firm Eclipse which Lior also co-founded and works as a Founding Partner. A firm that became one of the first specialists in physical industry transformation and since grown to manage over $4B, partnering with 70+ companies. Lior sits on both sides of the table and offers a uniquely deep perspective on how our world is being reshaped.

Let’s dive into what stood out when previewing the future of manufacturing through Lior’s eyes.

Manufacturing will respond to software commands

97% of electronics are still built by hand. We are building technology like craftsmen thanks to low-cost labor markets. That is all about to change as the unit economics of robot-built products steadily improves.

This starts with the production of high value products such as computer chips (i.e. GPU racks) which demand higher customization for customers. The only way to deliver the customization at scale is through greater automation and sophisticated robotic manufacturing. Changes designed in software are consumed easily as instructions for today’s robotic ‘microfactories’ removing the need to re-train humans or add production lines.

This is leading to new forms of product and manufacturing design. Instead of creating a process for lower-skilled human labor to follow, designs are developed by machine learning models for the consumption of highly capable software-controlled robots.

It is the machine designing the machine

What starts here will proliferate down to lower value consumer electronics and result in far greater skews and product mixes than our current ‘rigid’ factory production will allow.

Each factory will be simulated with a digital brain

To further the promise of a far more dynamic, responsive, and overall performant factory environment comes advancements in virtual simulation and digital twins.

You will not have many factories that won't be connected to the internet, leveraging machine health, digital twins, and software automation

Simulating the entire end-to-end manufacturing process in software provides a fantastic training ground for AI to run continuous testing and optimization. It is what such models do incredibly well. The fact that our factories will be far more connected and equipped with multiple sensors will provide a more complete picture to these models as well.

The result, a flow of production recommendations and improvements to deliver the best product in the most effective manner. Fast forward 10 years and you can envisage the entire end-to-end product design and production being delivered with just a customer command as input or order.

Note: see our previous 5YF episode on 3D Printing which describes an era of mass customization as a compliment to this chain of thought.

Hard tech will attract many of the best founders

A new generation of industrial titan has emerged thanks to the pioneering vision and grit of founders like Elon Musk (Tesla/SpaceX) and Jensen Huang (Nvidia). They have tackled incredibly complex and capital intensive industries to emerge dominant and triumphant.

The best founders in the world right now are looking at Elon and Jensen as their heroes.

They have inspired founders to tackle the hard problems that must be solved with a combination of both hardware and software. The alumni of their companies and others like Bright Machines are creating a rising generation of hard tech founders and talent. Capital is flowing to greet them and we will continue to see some of the best and brightest mission driven entrepreneurs devote themselves to the long term struggle and ultimate reward of transforming our industrial and physical landscapes. Making the future an ever more inspiring destination for us all.

- Daniel Darling

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