It’s been relatively slow so far this year in terms of investments for core robotics and automation companies, but that hasn’t slowed interest in related industries. For example, recently we saw continued transactions for artificial intelligence, 3D printing for manufacturing, and unmanned systems purchases by military concerns.
Today, we’re highlighting 11 recent robotics and AI transactions. If you’ve missed some other transactions from the past months, you can track them in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type.
3D printing for manufacturing firms score funding
Desktop Metal this week announced closing $160 million in Series E funding, which brings its total funding at $438 million raised since its 2015 founding. The company said this now “marks an inflection point where metal 3D printing begins to disrupt traditional manufacturing.”
The funding round was provided by Koch Disruptive Technologies, a subsidiary of Koch Industries that has invested more than $17 billion in technology companies over the past six years.
“Desktop Metal’s 3D printing solutions can redefine prototyping and mass production of metal products, which has profound disruptive implications for manufacturers like Koch Industries,” said Chase Koch, president of KDT. “We are very bullish about the prospects of Desktop Metal, not just as an investor, but also as a customer and partner.”
The company said it plans to use the funding to advance commercial globalization of its metal 3D printing technology, which includes the Desktop Metal Production System, planned for commercial shipping in Q1 2019. The company’s Studio System is the “world’s first and only metal 3D printing system able to print and sinter parts in an office environment, delivering the same accessibility that product developers are accustomed.” Now shipping in volume, the Studio System is available through Desktop Metal’s global sales network in 48 countries.
“This new funding will fuel the continued development of our metal 3D printing technology and rich product roadmap, the scaling of operations to meet a growing demand of orders, and the financing of new research and development initiatives,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal.
A second company in the additive manufacturing space, Essentium this week announced closing a $22.2 million Series A funding round. The College Station, Texas-based company provides industrial 3D manufacturing platforms in the automotive, aerospace, contract manufacturing, and biomedical industries.
“The funding round will be used to scale manufacturing, engineering, international distribution, sales and marketing operations to meet market demand for the recently introduced Essentium High Speed Extrusion (HSE) Platform,” the company said in its funding announcement.
“The multi-billion-dollar potential of additive manufacturing has long been hampered by an inability to produce parts to a similar strength, speed and scale of injection molded parts,” the company added. “Essentium’s innovation in materials and production platforms has solved this, and is poised to have profound impact in the production and manufacturing workflow of automotive, aerospace, contract manufacturing and biomedical industries.”
The funding round was led by BASF Venture Capital, with participation from Materialise, Genesis Park, and previous seed round investors. Sven Thate, an investment manager at BASF Venture Capital, will join the company’s board.
Militaries continue their love of unmanned systems
It’s no surprise that military groups continue to fund unmanned systems to help protect soldiers. We noticed two significant investments in technologies for the air and sea space recently.
FLIR Systems announced it was awarded a contract from the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) in support of the French Operational Pocket Drone (DROP) program. The $89 million ceiling contract has FLIR providing its Black Hornet 3 nano-unmanned aerial vehicle and Personal Reconnaissance System to support French armed forces.
The Black Hornet RPS is “the world’s smallest combat-proven nano-Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and is currently deployed in more than 30 countries,” FLIR said. The Black Hornet gives soldiers the ability to “maintain situational awareness, threat detection, and surveillance no matter where the mission takes them.” The company said the system includes electro-optical/infrared sensors and the ability to fly up to 25 minutes.
Moving from the air to the sea, Textron Systems announced it earned a $10.8 million contract from the U.S. Navy for development of its unmanned sea vessels. The contract is for engineering and technical services for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), an unmanned patrol boat that enables mine warfare sweep missions. The UISS can target acoustic, magnetic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types.
AI Corner: AI moves everywhere
Once again this week, investors have targeted companies providing AI-based technologies to different markets, from manufacturing to real estate. Here’s our quick updates:
- K.-based Draper & Dash earned $3.89 million for its AI-driven healthcare data analytics platform.
- Another U.K. company, Flexciton, raised $3.26 million to advance its AI-driven system for factories to help them optimize their production lines.
- Israel-based Hailo expanded its Series A funding round to $21 million to further develop its processing architecture for deep learning on edge devices.
- China’s AInnovation scored $60 million to advance its AI platform in the retail, manufacturing, and finance sectors.
- Delft, the Netherlands-based GeoPhy announced a $33 million investment to further develop its AI-powered real estate valuation platform.
Eye-tracking and thing-tracking wrap up the week
Two final transactions of note before we wrap up the column this week. ThingTech earned a $4 million investment to expand its industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform-as-a-service offering. The Atlanta-based software company combines enterprise asset management, field service, smart cities, and IoT systems into a single, cloud-based connected platform for enterprise asset intelligence.
Swiss-based Eyeware closed a $1.9 million funding round to help bring 3D eye tracking technology to consumer devices. The company’s software also enables cars and robots with 3D cameras the ability to “sense and analyze the attention of users.” Most recently, Eyeware software was used in a demonstration at CES 2019 where autograde time-of-flight cameras could estimate the attention of drivers to help reduce road accidents caused by drivers who lose attention at the wheel. The company said it is looking to expand its corporate partnerships in the U.S. and China.
That’s it for this week, have a great weekend everyone!