Formnext start-up challenge winner Exponential Technologies gains APX funding

Industrial 3D printing software developer and winner of the 2019 Formnext start-up challenge, Exponential Technologies (xT), has gained investment from the German-based APX VC fund. 

Although the exact amount of funding raised hasn’t been disclosed, the pre-seed investment is expected to help the company expand on its presence within the German industrial sector. Given that APX has strong ties with car manufacturer Porsche, the deal could allow Exponential Technologies to access new automotive, materials and manufacturing clients, with its proprietary xT SAAM AI platform. 

“Being a global industrial powerhouse, my home country Germany was always one of our major focus markets,” said Matthias Kaiser, Co-Founder & CEO of xT. “Now, the investment by APX further strengthens this connection. We are looking forward to many upcoming projects with the German chemical and material industrialists.”

“Germany is in the midst of a massive digital transformation, and xT wants to establish itself as a major driver of this shift towards the next generation of industrial technologies.”

Optimizing FDM printing process, using PLA material, to maximize compression strength and minimizing weight and printing time simultaneously. Photo via Exponential Technologies Ltd.
Exponential Technologies’ software can be used to minimize the weight and lead times of FDM 3D printed parts (pictured). Photo via Exponential Technologies.

AI-based industrial optimization 

Co-founded in July 2019 by Pavel Cacivkin, Matthias Kaiser and Girts Smelters, Exponential Technologies specializes in the development of ML-driven programs that serve to accelerate existing industrial processes. The company’s main software offering, xT SAAM, is built around a small data AI software, which is often deployed to help R&D engineers expedite the creation of new 3D printing materials. 

According to Exponential Technologies, other similarly-applied packages are too complex, and require users to have prior programming knowledge, forcing many to adopt inefficient one-factor-at-a-time (OFAT) testing methods. By contrast, xT SAAM operates using the JSON API format, which allows it to be connected to any machine, database or software application without needing any reprogramming. 

The versatile platform’s JSON interface also enables users to fully-automate the material analysis and optimization process, while its built-in Python engine allows it to be integrated seamlessly into existing setups. Similarly, given that many large firms hire Design of Experiments (DoE) experts to run alternative softwares, they could now stand to reduce their wage bills by adopting xT SAAM technology. 

Aside from material R&D, Exponential Technologies’ software can also be utilized to optimize the parameter setups of 3D printers, as well as other machines such as the bioreactors used for pharma-production. With the support of its newfound backing from APX, the company now intends to further explore this industrial, medical and chemical potential of its technologies within the domestic German market. 

Iteration by iteration manufacturing with number crunching from Exponential Technologies AI. Image via Exponential Technologies.
A screen capture from an earlier version of Exponential Technologies’ software. Image via Exponential Technologies.

APX invests in xT’s potential 

Backed by the media and automotive firms Axel Springer and Porsche, APX invests in very-early-stage start-ups, and since 2018 it has provided funding to more than 80 new firms across 20 industries. Through its previous investments, the VC fund has fostered close ties with active manufacturers in multiple sectors, and Exponential Technologies now aims to leverage those contacts to build on its customer base. 

“We are particularly excited about the investment, as APX is well connected to the Porsche Group,” added Kaiser. “It’s especially important because our newest software version has applications in R&D as well as in the management of production anomalies. We see a huge potential market for automotive here, but also other manufacturing industries.”

Elsewhere, Exponential Technologies has also worked closely with German industrial firm Evonik to help optimize its chemical formulation process, and the company is hoping that its platform’s strong performance within the project will yield further opportunities, either in this area, or other anomaly management, biotech or 3D printing applications. 

ML-driven 3D printing advances

Commercial 3D printing software developers are increasingly incorporating AI and ML tools  into their programs, as a means of helping clients drive maximal efficiency from their production workflows. Earlier this year, Oqton raised $40 million towards the development of its AI-powered automated software platform, which is capable of accelerating the CNC machining, 3D printing and robotic welding processes. 

Engineering software developer CoreTechnologie has also added AI algorithms to its 4D_Additive print preparation program, via the introduction of a new nesting function. The feature combines automated intelligent behavior and ML tools to ensure an even arrangement of parts in the build space during nesting. 

3D printer manufacturer Markforged, meanwhile, has taken a different approach and integrated AI technology into its Blacksmith software, as a means of enhancing its X7 3D printer’s performance. The program includes a patented scanning algorithm, that enables manufacturers to assess just how close their parts got to their original STLs. 

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Featured image shows a set of FDM 3D printed parts produced using Exponential Technologies’ software. Photo via Exponential Technologies.