Unless you’re into manufacturing or product design, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about how plastic molds are made. Take a look around – see something with a plastic shell? It was probably injection molded and the tools used to make the plastic were probably a real pain to make the ejector pins. The nuclear industry is taking what is now part science and part art, run by experienced instrument makers, and adding a layer of software to it to make hardware cheaper, faster, and more reproducible.
The company today announced that it has raised $3.2 million from Point72, 8VC and Toyota Ventures to automate and expand existing workflows. The software that Atomic is building will initially be for internal use, but the intention is to make it available to other companies.
To bring a product to market, several steps must be taken, including product research and development. But once it comes down to you wanting to prototype or start manufacturing that item, you have to think about how you’re going to make it. Depending on the amount of parts you need to build, tool and mold making becomes an important part of almost everything we use every day. Making tools is incredibly difficult – As Elon Musk explainsIn many cases, the tools used to make plastic parts are more complex than the parts they are made from. Ironically, this is often done People who have a lot of experience and who have learned trading through an apprenticeship.
“You don’t usually go to college to learn these things and no one really trusts you until your hair is gray,” said Aaron Slodov, CEO and co-founder of Atomic Industries. IYou need to know how much something can be built, and a lot of that has to do with the machines that actually pump your parts. These machines have limits, and the only people who really know how to apply those limits are the ones who design the tool into a die, an injection mold, or whatever you use.”
Manufacturing equipment is extremely expensive and is a significant bottleneck in the production of most products. Factories generally cannot produce parts without sophisticated tooling (molds, dies, castings, etc.) designed by skilled craftsmen whose knowledge keeps the industry alive. Atomic’s approach will automate traditional workflows, increasing productivity by orders of magnitude. The company strives to minimize as many obstacles as possible when making tools and molds. The team’s long-term vision is to make manufacturing affordable, scalable and reproducible. Automating tool and mold making is an important part of this journey, the company says. The plan is to start with something worthwhile but less ambitious for now.
IThe tool and mold maker usually receives a CAD file from the customer describing what they need to make. Their job is to develop a mold or tool for that part. You have someone to design this complex injection mold, which then has to be made. Finally, testing needs to be done to ensure that the parts coming out of this mold meet the specifications of the client’s needs,” Slodov explains. “For example, they can specify very tight tolerances. To do this, you must have a really good design, which is often inspired by human intuition and experience. ,
In short, Atom seeks to replace human intuition and the inefficient experience of a skilled toolmaker with software that uses physics and algorithms.
“TookInstead of doing a simulation and then iterating on that design, our software means that simulation and design happen at the same time. This is orders of magnitude faster and more scalable,” explains Slodov. The scalable part is that software can parallelize much better than humans. “You can’t hire more than one human designer; Adding more designers won’t speed things up.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, supply chains have come under scrutiny and investors and startups have begun to look at industries and sectors that are poised for disruption.Strong demand for new manufacturing technologies will continue to rise as supply chain challenges persist.
“While it is a fundamental process in manufacturing, tool and mold making is a longstanding, time-consuming, labor-intensive process that resists innovation,” said Jim Adler, founder and president of Toyota Ventures. “By using human tools and software to automate the most complex parts of a designer’s workflow, Atomic is creating a future where mass production is as flexible and distributed as software development. The ability of a team of specialists to overcome this critical industry barrier is why we are so excited to join them in their mission to unlock the full potential of injection molding design.