San Francisco-based Bright Machines has announced earlier this week it raised $179 million in Series A funding led by Eclipse Ventures to build on its robotics platform. Bright Machines’ platform is able to take make robots more useful by programming it to perform a set of tasks through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Bright Machines started out as an incubator project within the Flex manufacturing company and then it spun out the AutoLab AI startup after that.
Interestingly, Bright Machines already has over 300 employees and the company brought in Armar Hanspal as chief executive, who was the former Autodesk co-CEO. Some of the board members at Bright Machines include former Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, Flex CEO Mike McNamara, Seagate CEO Steve Luczo, and former Flex executive Lior Susan — who is also the Eclipse Ventures founder. Flex is considered one of the largest contract manufacturers in the world and is known for assembling Fitbit devices.
There are two aspects of Bright Machines’ business. Bright Machines is able to set up robots for building and inspecting electronics in “micro-factory” environments. And Bright Machines also develops software tools to make manufacturing processes more efficient.
Hanspal told TechCrunch that the company is putting together the people, tech stack, funding, and resources to tackle the under-served environment to bring more automation and software to the factory floor. While many factory floors are already using automated processes for manufacturing, Bright Machines is taking the unique approach of taking “dumb” and “costly” robots to ones that are “sensor-rich” and have computer vision.
Bright Machines already has a number of customers using these micro-factories to build a substantial number of products. Plus Bright Machines is setting up a subscription model where customers can set up custom manufacturing lines. This should bring down the costs and stresses in comparison to traditional approaches.
“One customer we’re working with explicitly wants to make their products in the U.S.,” added Hanspal via Reuters. “It’s not a political thing. They want to make their products where their company is.”