Photo above: Installing 3d Signals’ sensor in a production line. The digitization begins with data collection
The Kfar Saba-based (near Tel Aviv) 3d Signals, which has developed a solution for digitalization, monitoring and analytics of manufacturing machines, has reported that since the beginning of 2020 it had increased its installing base in Europe, and especially in Germany. Germany’s industrial sector is prominent in the production of heavy machinery, automotive, electronics, engineering and chemicals – and is ideal candidate for 3d Signals’ solutions.
The German industry constitutes the company’s main target market, where it is active via a local subsidiary located in the Frankfurt area. 3d Signals’ VP of Marketing, Danya Golan, told Techtime that COVID-19 crisis strongly affected business continuity in many factories, who urgently needed remote managing capabilities. “During the crisis, we have generated new customers in Europe and are providing them with online support,” she said.
The pilot program led to a new direction
3d Signals was founded in 2015 and has raised $26 million to date. The company was recently selected to participate in the prestigious Technology Pioneers program of the World Economic Forum. It started by developing a platform for forecasting malfunctions in industrial machines, based on external acoustic sensors. The solution aroused great interest in the industry, but a pilot program with industrial partners proved to be a disappointment: The insights it had produced gave only limited value to the production managers.
Danya: “Predictive maintenance is today a big buzz in the industry, but sometime the value of these tools is quite limited. Our system, for example, knew which component was going to break down in which machine. It was very impressive, but it did not contribute much to the ongoing operation of the entire production line”.
Following lessons learned, the company recalculated its vision, and transformed itself from sensor-oriented to system-oriented provider. It abandoned the focus on acoustic sensors and malfunction prediction, and adopted a digital approach to allow factories to transform themselves from “stupid” factories to “smart” ones; a system suitable for any production machine, regardless of model or role of its independent units.
The “Smart Factory” is not so smart
The term ‘Industry 4.0’ has been around for several years, but is far from being wide spread. According to Cisco, less than 10% of the tens of millions of manufacturing machines in the world are connected to a communications network. “Without digitization, there is no basic infrastructure that allows for visibility, and there’s no data to operate Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning algorithms or any other kind of analytics.”
Unlike other solutions in the market, than can be very costly and complex, 3d Signals works with an unobtrusive platform based on external sensors which are easy to operate and to install. In fact, it takes less than an hour to complete a full connection of an industrial main machine. “Even basic information is sufficient to make a significant change. We monitor the machines from the outside by using sensors such as a current transformer or an acoustic sensor, to learn whether or not the machine is functioning.
“Within 48 hours of the installation, there is a unified monitoring dashboard for the entire factory. Today our technology is focused on the algorithms and presentation of information in such a way that both the CEO and the floor manager can understand. Our data shows that our customers had improved their output by 30% within 3 months of launching the platform.”