We know apps are sexy! What about advanced manufacturing startups? Review of top 5 most promising startups

By Wladimir Hinz, Altitude Accelerator Tech Blogger

WladimirHinz Robot 1024x512, Altitude Accelerator

Hardware meets software. Advanced manufacturing is the renaissance of manufacturing, it’s a powerful engine for growth and it’s opening the doors for the next great human revolution.

At the intersection between hardware and software, advanced manufacturing is changing the way we build, create, and design, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the factory of the future. Advanced manufacturing is likely to accelerate innovation to a never-before-seen rate, as ideas can be conveyed faster and cheaper from laboratories to the production floor.

Manufacturers are constantly reassessing their production networks in light of ever-shifting labor and energy costs. A perpetual scramble for competitive advantage that intensifies every day and pressures companies to continually improve productivity in all of their processes. First with technological development and then by adopting next gen techs.

The term “advanced manufacturing” has been around for a long time and has many interpretations but it’s usually associated with cost-efficient, data-driven manufacturing processes that use high-precision components to deliver highly customizable goods.

It’s not easy to try to condense all the startups out there to a list of 5, especially in such a broad field. These are just a representative sample of good business models that have transformed ideas into funding magnets, and look very promising for the future. This is our list of the 5 most promising startups in the advanced manufacturing arena:

  1. Variable Technologies
    Founded in 2009, it has raised more than $4.2M in capital and, as of 2014, has a market value of $6+ Million. Variable Technologies are the makers of NODE+ wireless sensor platform, a smart device that can be used to improve supply chain management. At first glance, the NODE+ looks like a simple sensor/scanner but the analytics it can produce are critical. Together with all the APIs that are available, the sensor has the potential to provide immensely useful solutions and a market of opportunities for emerging and consolidated businesses.
  2. Plethora
    Founded in 2013, it raised $6.6 Million in its first 2 years. They are looking to build “the factory of the future”, where hardware is manufactured as easy as software. Plethora offers a very fast manufacturing service for clients, who only need to provide the CAD files of the parts they want to make. Makes hardware much more accessible, as the timeframes for finished products are very short (up to just 1 day).
  3. Thalmic Labs
    Founded in 2013, it has raised $15.6M between Seed and Series A funding. This Canadian startup makes the Myo armband, a device that can interpret the body’s biometric signals and provide gesture-based control. Myo works with computers, smartphones and tablets, so it can potentially be used for gaming, presentations, and as an integrated controller that can interact with other smart devices. Plus, it looks really awesome!
  4. Formlabs
    Founded in 2014, it has already raised $23.6 Million in Series A funding. This MIT startup specializes in affordable high-resolution 3D printers that can rapidly create complex physical geometric parts. Their printers are very user-friendly and have a very powerful software that’s hoping to make the task of printing highly-customizable objects, a routine job for designers. Formlabs are also experimenting with more advanced materials, which look very promising.
  5. Rethink Robotics
    Founded in 2009, it has raised more than $60 Million in Series A/B/C Rethink Robotics make the ground-breaking Baxter, specializing in affordable production line automation, where robots collaboratively join the work force, allowing people and robots to work side by side. The costs of programing and setup are minimal, and the base price runs around $2500. It’s surely one of the most profitable startups out there.

This technological revolution in manufacturing will take some time to fully unfold, but as advanced manufacturing becomes more practical, more producers will adapt, particularly when they observe first-hand the gains in cost and productivity.

Are you an entrepreneur or small manufacturing business looking for automation solutions? Check out our special Peer2Peer on Advanced Manufacturing on October 29 in partnership with Haltech, Sheridan College CAMDT and Business Advisory Services.