- Voodoo Manufacturing has a factory in Brooklyn consisting of 160 3-D printers.
- It raised $5 million from General Catalyst to add robots to the factory, and hopes to eliminate most human laborers.
- Clients include Nickelodeon, Microsoft, Mattel, Lowe's and Yoplait.
Self-driving cars have captivated the world. Now, a Brooklyn-based start-up called Voodoo Manufacturing wants to bring the same autonomy and safety to manufacturing, with a factory that makes 3-D prints of any imaginable design, staffed almost entirely by robots.
Customers upload a design file to Voodoo's site. The start-up then manufactures their desired items in batches from one to 10,000 units per order. Voodoo's factory runs 160 different 3-D printers today, rather than using injection molding machines you'd find in a conventional factory.
Most recently, Voodoo began developing robots to run the 3-D printers with little to no human oversight, said CEO and co-founder Max Friefeld.See also 'Lights Out' manufacturing and 'dark factories'.
The robots, which Voodoo assembles from available sensors, arms, grippers and other components, can take a plate out of a printer, put a new one in, then restart it to begin the next job.
These tasks used to be done by people.
The company's proprietary software controls the way the robots work in conjunction with the printers, and keeps orders running on time.
"At a high level, our goal is to automate the machine-tending portion of our factory, and get to 80 percent utilization of all the hardware here," Friefeld said. "With a really lean team, we could operate around the clock, with maybe one person working the night shift."...MORE, including video.
As Wikipedia notes:
FANUC, the Japanese robotics company, has been operating a "lights out" factory for robots since 2001. Robots are building other robots at a rate of about 50 per 24-hour shift and can run unsupervised for as long as 30 days at a time. "Not only is it lights-out," says Fanuc vice president Gary Zywiol, "we turn off the air conditioning and heat too."