May 12, 2021

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Seattle startup Modica turns shipping containers into software-driven microfactories

4 min read
Seattle startup Modica turns shipping containers into software-driven microfactories
Seattle-primarily based Modica builds interconnected systems for micromanufacturing and houses it all in delivery containers. (Modica Image)

Looking at stacks of transport containers arrive and go from Seattle’s waterfront, you might question what is in them, exactly where they arrived from and where by they’re headed. A single Seattle startup isn’t filling the brightly coloured containers with merchandise and is as a substitute working with containers to home microfactories that can churn out goods any where in the earth.

About Modica: Launched in 2018 and dependent in Seattle’s SoDo community, Modica builds manufacturing unit-as-a-assistance modules. Founder and CEO William Gibbs has labored in aerospace, meals processing and typical factory automation and robotics. He formerly ran and then sold a tiny systems integration business named Corvus and Columba.

Modica CEO Will Gibbs. (Modica Picture)

Systems integration is basically the making of factories, wherever a enterprise decides what merchandise you have to have to make, which robots to use, conveyors, customized tooling and a lot more. Modica is adapting modular design systems and generative structure approaches to the way complete factories are constructed, in get to construct them more quickly and reduce shortages like lots of seasoned early in the pandemic.

Tech HQ not too long ago termed the microfactory “the up coming massive detail in producing,” enabling the setup of modest-to-medium scale, very automated, technologically state-of-the-art production possessing a large variety of procedures.

What is in a identify? Modica takes its title from the term modicum, which means a smaller part of one thing. Gibbs claims Modica is “many smaller matters recurring numerous periods. It performs into what we do — we modify shipping and delivery containers so the ‘mod’ component makes feeling.”

Why shipping and delivery containers? Gibbs claimed the modular form factor can be parallelized and pre-crafted and then brought alongside one another. They begin with containers for the reason that they’re compatible with international logistics and you can get a person virtually wherever and ship one particular almost anywhere.

“If you are generating small products, most of the devices you’d use would fit in a container,” Gibbs stated. “It also turns out to the extent that factories aren’t wholly automatic, there is continue to persons in factories. The container can in fact modify into a workspace. You can sign up for them collectively and stack them and make human workspaces.”

A container ship arriving alongside Seattle’s waterfront. (GeekWire Photograph / Kurt Schlosser)

Example of present-day enterprise: Containerization of present enterprise procedures incorporate Modica’s function with a metal supplier that does brief operates of metallic — smaller amounts of sticks of metallic that are slash and packaged. They usually function out of large warehouses and Modica can create a micro-warehouse that has a subset of their full inventory.

“The benefit that’s included is you can get your output, or at minimum your microfulfillment, closer to the use facilities,” Gibbs said. He also foresees the capacity to identify a microfactory closer to a catastrophe zone for more rapidly production of vital merchandise.

Cost: The assortment is huge for Modica’s services for the reason that it depends on what’s heading inside of the container. A really basic container modification, with a solitary 3D printer sitting in it, for instance, might be about $8,000. It goes up from there, relying on what it is you want. The sky’s the restrict for a tightly built-in, entire spectrum of automation with custom made parts.

Modica is producing higher-tech restrooms for Throne. (Throne Picture)

Higher-tech restroom relationship: When Amazon designed news previously this month for the reason that its supply drivers have been admitting that they experienced to resort to urinating in bottles due to the fact they couldn’t uncover the time to use community restrooms, Modica’s identify arrived up in talks of a remedy. The firm is truly constructing linked units for Washington, D.C.-centered Throne, whose significant-tech restrooms count on an app that reserves and unlocks a free-standing restroom.

“As we ramp up generation, we’re actually building microfactories that will be producing these overall Throne units,” Gibbs stated. “So it is actually a form of an consuming-our-possess-canine-meals form of practical experience so far. We just delivered some of the early units. There will be numerous, many extra.”

Funding: Modica was mostly bootstrapped right until staying acknowledged into the STANLEY + Techstars accelerator application targeted on AI in innovative producing. Demo working day for the accelerator was Thursday.

Group: Modica employs 7 individuals presently and strategies to double that headcount this 12 months. Peter Biddle, an early Microsoft employee who put in virtually 17 decades at the program big, joined as a co-founder in 2019.

Past phrase: “I seriously couldn’t describe Modica without the need of mentioning both of those the hardware and the software,” Gibbs explained. “We really don’t just want to dangle our hat on the shipping container. It just turns out that it is just one of our variety aspects that the application layout instrument we use can do the job with, to assistance modularize and do this units integration. They actually go hand in hand and the idea would be type of incomplete without having both of those.”

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