The i4Challenge boosts great solutions for the Industry 4.0
For the 5th time, we award the i4Challenge winners. The six winners “Innovative Solutions” not only developed convincing solutions, but showed deep understanding for the industry: From improving energy efficiency to creating reusable packaging and enabling people to take maintenance into their own hands – the winning solutions have the potential to improve manufacturing, change mindsets and drive the industrial transformation.
It’s a catch 22: According to a survey of Industrie 2025 the majority of Swiss companies is aware of the importance of digitalization for their business – but more than half don’t yet have a digital strategy. The i4Challenge is here to change that, get industry 4.0 solutions on the road and support the manufacturing industry with new approaches and valuable applications. To that end, we invited startups, companies and projects to apply for the 5th edition of the i4Challenge.
How do we support industry 4.0 innovators?
It’s our mission to gather skilled innovators from the industry and evaluate their ideas and solutions. We can rely on our jury members with experts from the industry and from academia to pick the best applications. We support our winners with their pitches, help to shape with business development and introduce them to our vast trinational network.
The winners of the Innovative Solution track also receive exhibition space at the BE 4.0 trade fair in Mulhouse (29.- 30. November 2022) and specific education programs.
The winners of the New Idea track have the opportunity to accelerate their business at the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area in Courroux and receive coaching from various industry experts to develop their business model.
In total, the amount of the prize equals 40 000 Swiss francs.
For us, the i4Challenge is also a valuable way to follow current industry 4.0 topics.
Our conclusions on industry 4.0 trends
- Developers, companies and academics are not lacking ideas – on the contrary. We have received 30 applications for the track Innovative Solutions. 9 applicants handed in their pitches for the track New Ideas.
- Additive manufacturing and AI are technologies to stay: they are applied in four winning pitches.
- Sustainability is a hot manufacturing topic – to reduce costs, the industry needs new ways to cut inefficiencies (and hence costs).
- Enabling people to maintain machines is key to driving the industrial transformation, especially in times of limited availability of skilled talent on the market.
Industry 4.0 solutions are helping to battle the complexity of new methods, machines and programs, but also tackles manufacturing costs.
Here are the i4Challenge Innovative Solution winners 2022
a-metal CEO Stephan Steiner & CTO Andreas Kuster
3D printing of plastic has become affordable and it gets easier to deal with additive manufacturing by the minute. Printing metal is a completely different story, as the co-founders Stephan Steiner and Andreas Kuster say. “It was clear that we must solve the entry barriers for metal 3D printing.” They enable R&D departments, SMEs and the education sector to enter into professional metal additive manufacturing. To that end, they provide a compact desktop machine, powder material in sealed cartridges and an easy-to-use software package. The co-founders vision is to enter the huge market of metal printing while at the same time boosting the sustainability of the broad industry. The new machine concept was developed and tested during Stephan Steiners master’s thesis at ETH Zurich.
Manufacturing plants are run by electric motors. Maintaining these motors improves productivity – but electric motors are also key in improving energy efficiency: In Switzerland, electric motors consume the equivalent of 12 TWh per year. Switching to models that are more efficient can improve efficiency by 20%, which is something to consider with regards to energy prices and the efficiency standards that need to be fulfilled. “Improving energy efficiency can only happen quickly if the necessary knowledge is present in all companies. Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of skilled labor, this ideal situation does not occur,” says Michael Kummer, CEO at Ketag. The scarcity of knowledge led to an increasing number of requests for assistance from customers – leading to an expansion of the first level support at Ketag. To solve the issue, Ketag first conducted a feasibility study with students from the FHNW and then developed an application to digitize and automate the process of replacing a faulty electric motor – no special knowledge is required. In a next step, they want to provide the possibility to compare motors with different efficiencies from different manufacturers.
Lines Manufacturing founders
Additive manufacturing is applied to customize products, usually enabling companies to produce small series of the parts they need. While the setup is well-established to produce small parts, making big parts are generally too expensive to produce. Up until now, manufacturers of large parts had two possibilities when selling large parts in small and midsize series: hope to sell a part at a high price or lose money on the part. Lines Manufacturing solves that issue: The three co-founders develop high performance industrial production machines which is based on their patented large-format polymer 3D printing technology from pellet extrusion. “It’s much more productive and faster than the state of the art,” says Niels Pernoux, one of the co-founders. “The cost is ten times lower per part compared to the competition.” The founders, all friends since engineering school, are on a mission to make market trends industry-ready. They also aim to bring new dynamics to the French and European industry, based on relocation models. And they want to make the industry more circular by scaling additive manufacturing up in production.
plus10 is a spin-off from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation in Stuttgart. Co-founder Felix Georg Müller and some colleagues were searching for solutions to avoid downtimes and manufacturing scrap in complex, fully automated and highly regulated production lines like in the pharma and medtech environment. The process from idea to product took years, included several patents and many use cases. “We found a way to solve the problem in a robust and reliable way. That was our breakthrough moment where we realized together with some test clients that we are finally on a successful track.” The solution are three continuously learning and situationally suggesting AI-based optimization tools to tackle technical availability losses, work as machine performance finder and provide recommendations to reduce scrap. The tools learn directly on the machine controllers and have proven to increase efficiency by 10% and 20% shorter ramp-up periods for setting up new manufacturing equipment.
“In a world where 94% of raw material is only used once, circularity is a must to decarbonize and make society more efficient,” says Matthew Reali, co-founder and CEO of Ponera Group Sàrl. When Matthew was working in the industry, leading multiple logistics and industrial packaging optimization projects, he got obsessed with the problem of one unsustainable and inefficient practice in particular: Single-use custom sized wooden crates. 30% of the world industrial wood is used to produce industrial crates, 40% of which are used only once. Ponera has developed a modular reusable and digitally enabled industrial packaging solution which replaces these wooden crates. This reduces packaging costs by up to 90%, wood consumption by up to 95% and allows to digitize freight flows on the package level. “Being part of this shift in technology and mainly in mindset is incredibly exciting,” says Matthew Reali.
Technicians need to train the use of new machines. However, machines are becoming more complex, proper documentation is sometimes skipped and instructions from manuals and technical drawings can be misleading, causing critical errors for the machine and the product. During his research for his master’s thesis at ETH Zurich, Kordian Caplazi developed an augmented reality platform that enables service technicians to complete tasks faster and with fewer errors. The solution aims at the mechanical and electrical engineering industry and can be applied in inspection, maintenance and training. Kordian Caplazi was motivated to pursue the idea as a business after the first customer signed the contract. “The ability to define the path by yourself, apply knowledge gathered during the academic career and with a powerful business idea in our hands, it was really motivating.”
These New Ideas win the i4Challenge 2022
AdVentura Works is building a solution for remote driving of forklifts to help logistics and industrial companies tackle employee shortages, using computer vision, advanced sensors, Edge AI and human-robot collaboration.
Axom Solutions is using the latest deep learning pharmaceutical manufacturing images adding the flexibility and agility required by the production environment. The first counting product is used by companies to reduce the risk of mislabeled products. The plan is to develop automated inspection for injectable drugs – now often done manually.
Customers scan properties by themselves. As a result, the solution provides accurate plans and BIM models that have all necessary information embedded as a digital twin. This is addressing the lack of knowledge when it comes to renovation cost. The calculated reference costs are based on years of experience and market practice, making it a realistic calculation.
The solution will serve the operation and maintenance of real-estate owners to look after their asset through careful inspection and maintenance operation. The solution helps to optimize the process to analyze and report issues, saving up to 90% of the operation time.
Xsight Cybersecurity is a hybrid security operation center to permanently protect clients’ networks and IT systems. It entails specialized hardware, a software solution and cybersecurity specialists.
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