components – parts that are made out of blocks of metal
“Today, if I want to buy metal components, the
process is truly horrible. I am going to have to email a lot
of factories, most of which will not respond; those that
do will get me a quote in a number of days; if I pay for it,
it is more expensive than it needs to be; quality could be
super-low; I will not hear anything about my order as it is
being produced; it will hopefully turn up on time, but
mostly in industry things are late.” His criticism is not
levelled at the people in industry but the software and
systems they work with and within, it should be said.
The process that CloudNC’s CEO envisages takes in:
uploading a 3D model; instant quote; instant design for
manufacturability feedback – price and cost drivers being
identified within that, allowing for modification; online
purchase – it doesn’t matter where it is made, you can
forget about it, he says, adding: “It’s like Amazon. I know
that the part is going to turn up quickly, at the right price,
and I can definitely rely on the part being correct.”
All the clever stuff will happen in the supply chain,
using automated factories where the machines already
know how they are going to make the part, so the parts
will definitely turn up on time. “You’ll be able to receive
thousands of parts in a very small amount of time,” he
assures. Even if they are spread across several factories,
they will be identical because of the standardised nature
of their production environment. “If you can automate the
CNC machine fully, there’s nothing to stop you
distributing manufacture across thousands of machines.
That means that where today it could take a few months
to get a run of a thousand units, in the future it could
take you just days.” (‘Swarm machining’ seems an
appropriate way of phrasing it.)
In developing this software and the manufacturing
hardware combination, CloudNC is, says Saville, bringing
together the best manufacturing culture that is employed
in companies such as Toyota and the high growth tech
culture found in companies such as Google. “We are
trying to mix those together to create a new techmanufacturing
culture that is super-fast and innovative,
and able to solve problems like this one.”
And he concludes: “Fifty years down the line, we
expect all types of manufacturing will be autonomous.
Whether you want one unit or a million, a part or an
entire assembly – even a complex assembly like an
engine – you will just throw a 3D file into a supply chain
system and get it back without any human involvement.
What enables this is if every machine knowing what it is
capable of producing, with factories of machines at the
top of the supply chain able to call on others in the
chain, completely automatically.” ■
❏ Read about Andrew Allcock’s visit to CloudNC’s
Chelmsford facility in the extended online article: https://
LEAD FEATURE THE FUTURE OF SUBCONTRACT MACHINING
Tech sector culture meets manufacturing in the
Chelmsford ‘common room’, complete with football table
The people behind CloudNC
■ Theo Saville has a background in 3D printing research, plus sales and
manufacturing research at the Warwick Manufacturing Group. It was while
there that he came up with the idea for automating NC programming
in the same vein as for 3D printing, when he saw what software was used
and how long it took.
■ CTO Chris Emery, ex-Google, has a background in high performance
computing and graphics processing units.
■ Siraj Khaliq is founder and ex-CTO of the Climate Corporation, which was
sold to Monsanto for $930m.
■ Paul McNabb is ex-chief strategy officer, Cisco Systems.
■ Chris Mairs is ex-CTO Metaswitch Networks.
■ Simon Murdoch is ex-vice president of Amazon Europe, reporting directly
to Geoff Bezos.
Apart from venture capital backing, which comes from “some of the top
artificial intelligence investors in the world”, the company has received
funding from government-backed body Innovate UK, as well received help
from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
As of August, CloudNC was a circa 75-person operation, including 20+
software engineers attracted from some “phenomenal” companies, but will
likely employ hundreds in another year, the CEO reveals. (Learn more by
reading the extended online article: https://is.gd/megaya)
12 September 2019 www.machinery.co.uk @MachineryTweets