The future of AI manufacturing is now as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) – part of High Value Manufacturing Catapult – introduces cutting edge IBM AI hardware to Factory 2050. With access to artificial intelligence and machine learning on the factory floor, we’re accelerating the pace of innovation across UK manufacturing.

Pictured: IBM AI Server

Sean Wilson, technical lead for AI at the AMRC explains:

 “This is the first industry-focused AI system of its kind in the UK. It’s the result of the very close relationship with IBM we have developed over recent years, enabling the AMRC to open up another dimension of Industry 4.0 for our partners, and the wider supply chain.”

The hardware enables AMRC researcher engineers to shred the time it takes to develop an algorithmic model from weeks down to a few hours. As backbone to this capacity and some of the world’s largest supercomputers, the IBM Power9 AC922 server is a game changer.

Wilson said:

“A perfect example is a recent five-day assist we did with a regional SME, in which we delivered a proof of concept to understand the structure of written documents/forms using computer vision.

Without the power box, it would have taken a couple of weeks to generate, train, and test the deep learning model. With PowerAI Vision software, we were able to upload and train the model in just over an hour with an 86% accuracy.

This provided the client with the proof of concept he needed to approach investors about commercialising his product. In this case, the power of AI enabled the AMRC to support an SME to do rapid innovation; testing ideas in hours to understand whether it is worth pursuing them further. Failing fast, and learning fast from those failures, is now very feasible.”

Unleashing the power of artificial intelligence is also having an impact on the AMRC’s bigger partners. One of the UK’s leading industrial exporters, Razor, are using AI to make a step-change in the performance and quality of their screening and inspection processes for critical aerospace components.

This not only ensures passenger safety, by providing a continuously improving inspection process built on big data analytics, but also delivers inspection rates 4,000 times faster than the original inspection. The AI solution, which brings local and global expertise together, will soon be on the factory floor of the OEM who said: “we’ve learned more in the last ten weeks at the AMRC than we have in ten years on our own.”

Kieran Edge, AMRC Technical Lead for Machine Vision, who oversees the project said:

“We used PowerAI Vision software for its classification as well as detection capabilities, and found we had a tremendous success straight off the bat.”

For IBM, the deployment of the AI demonstrator at the AMRC is a way of lowering the barriers to adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies in high value-added manufacturing sectors such as aerospace. IBM’s Ian Gardner said:

“It’s a way of demonstrating the art and science of the possible in a way that de-risks future investment in a technology which is often poorly understood by even some of the bigger players in the market place,”

PowerAI Vision software provides the AMRC and its partners with an open-source, easy-to-use framework and tools for building and managing computer vision models, including functions for installation and configuration, data labelling, model training, inference and deployment.

Wilson added:

“This [collaboration] means the AMRC and IBM can sweat the box without having to worry unduly about the price: achieving big innovations at cost levels that are affordable to SMEs. The future of AI manufacturing is here in Factory 2050: now.”

Find out more about Factory 2050 and other AMRC projects here.