DarwinAI, recipient of a recent $6 million investment round, is working to improve the efficiency of electronics production with its AI-powered technology

 December 22, 2022

WATERLOO, Ontario—The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to power visual inspection is a key driver of Industry 4.0, and is one of the factors that is currently spurring manufacturers to digitize their production processes. It’s also the foundation of a technology developed by DarwinAI to transform the $75 billion global printed circuit board (PCB) industry. The company took in a $6 million USD investment round recently, led by BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund with participation of new and existing investors, to help it achieve that goal, according to a release from DarwinAI.

The company is initially focusing on disrupting the electronics manufacturing industry “by improving the efficiency of printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) production” through its technology. By collecting and harnessing data at multiple inspection points, organizations can unearth inefficiencies, perform root cause analysis, and improve their supply chains in a holistic and systematic manner, the company said in the release.

Printed circuit boards are ubiquitous and embedded in everything from microwaves to cameras. They are also notoriously difficult to visually inspect due different board sizes and complicated geometries. What’s more, qualified workers are hard to find and retain, the company said.

“DarwinAI’s ongoing mission and differentiated approach to disrupt manufacturing using AI speaks to the company’s ambition and technical prowess,” said Thomas Park, lead partner, Deep Tech Venture Fund at BDC Capital, in a statement. “We are proud that this great Canadian company, led by [a] top tier AI technical and research team, has commercialized its technology in such a formidable manner, and are thrilled to lead this funding round.”

DarwinAI said it differentiates itself in numerous areas, beginning with the company’s foundational IP. It’s the by-product of years of scholarship from its academic team, and is said to enable robust, more accurate, and trustworthy performance, as well as quicker time-to-market. Next is the development of proprietary optics and custom hardware, which are key elements in bringing a full-fledged offering to the enterprise, the company said.

Third is the company’s private and proprietary PCB dataset, reportedly one of the largest in the world. DarwinAI said it has leveraged the dataset to accelerate delivery for its clients.

“The global shortage of semiconductors and PCBs, exemplified by the recent CHIPS act, has given rise to circumstances that favor disruption,” said DarwinAI CEO Sheldon Fernandez, in a statement. “While we were not the first to take note of this fact, it occurred to us that no one was building a product that combined artificial intelligence, hardware, and software into a system that was easy to integrate into the electronics manufacturing process.

“This is what intrigued us: By making it straightforward to deploy inspection units and analyze data, clients can install them in novel locations and enable completely new capabilities, such as returned product verification, process auditing, and retrospective quality inspection.”

Digitization is a key part of DarwinAI’s roadmap and its VQI product. The company said its new funding will enable it to make its system more robust for mass market deployment and ramp up hardware production, as it expects to serve more customers in 2023.

“We are extremely excited by this capital injection led by BDC Capital and their commitment to deep tech in Canada,” Fernandez added. “This funding enables us to continue building advanced features for our enterprise clients as they deploy our technology throughout their North American facilities. In addition to baseline quality improvements, the widespread adoption of our solution and the resulting digitization provides greater traceability and will serve as a launching point for broader Industry 4.0 efforts. The transformation is just beginning.”

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