Productive Machines, a Sheffield-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup, has raised £2.2m in seed funding to make its advanced machine tool process optimisation technology available to a far wider range of manufacturers worldwide.
UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) led the round with participation from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, ACT Venture Partners and Fuel Ventures, alongside grant funding from Innovate UK.
Productive Machines, a spin-out from The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), will use the funding to deliver its AI technology as a fully-automated Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product. This funding will enable Productive Machines to expand its team of eight people to more than 20.
Founded by Dr Erdem Ozturk (CEO) and Dr Huseyin Celikag (CTO), Productive Machines is commercialising the results of a six-year AMRC research project on machining dynamics. This research covered process and machine tool interactions, including how cutting forces and resulting vibrations affect machine tool performance.
Productive Machines has developed a powerful computational model to predict and mitigate the influence of these harmful vibrations at every stage in metal and composite milling jobs. It uses a digital twin to determine the best parameters for each machine tool and production run, eliminating wasteful configuration experiments and ensuring that milling jobs are right the first time.
The technology has already been deployed at ten major manufacturers, including Renault and MASA Aerospace. Machines configured by Productive Machines can produce parts in half the time it took originally and deliver significant surface quality improvements due to the mitigation of chatter vibrations created by instability in machining processes. Users report that cutting tools last up to 30 per cent longer on optimised machines.
Productive Machines is developing a network of partners to take its technology to market. These include measurement technology specialist Kistler, metal cutting solutions company Seco, and various other machine tool and cutting tool manufacturers.
Dr Erdem Ozturk, CEO at Productive Machines, comments: “Manufacturers want to reduce costs, improve quality and cut carbon emissions. But most don’t want to buy complex software products or hire PhD-level engineers to make them work. We are meeting all of their goals. The results of our research and innovation are proven with major manufacturers, and this investment enables us to make the significant benefits more accessible to manufacturers of all sizes, anywhere in the world.
“Our cutting-edge technology is already best-in-class in a $400 billion industry ripe for optimisation. There are three million machines in the world that would be more accurate, productive and sustainable with our AI, and we are removing the cost and skill barriers to its adoption.”
Keira Shepperson, Director at British Business Bank, said: “Partnerships between research hubs and corporations foster new ideas and blend the talent and creativity of both worlds together. With funding from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, Productive Machines will now be able to make an even greater impact on manufacturers by providing them with cost-cutting and efficiency improvements. The sector is brimming with opportunities for new ways of working and it’s encouraging to see Northern companies leading the way.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.