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Could objects designed by robots change the world?

"A change as significant as the industrial revolution”

By Freya Pratty

Credit: A rocket engine designed by Hyperganic.

Normally, objects are designed by a person who then creates a machine to mass produce that object. But what if, as well as producing it, machines themselves designed the object? 

That’s the idea behind Munich-based startup Hyperganic. Founder Lin Kayser says the ramifications of this type of design could be “as significant as the industrial revolution” from helping us solve the climate crisis to changing the way we trade goods around the world. 

Hyperganic uses artificial intelligence to create objects anything from a rocket engine, to a teapot, a replacement bone for an operation, or a bike helmet moulded to each individual head. 

Lin Kayser, founder and CEO of Hyperganics.

The company has just raised $7.8m from HV Capital, VSquared and Converge, as well as Hermann Hauser, the cofounder of ARM. 

How it works

“In current engineering, the engineer basically paints an object that needs to be machine produced afterwards,” explains Kayser. “It’s kind of the same process that a Roman would have used 2,000 years ago, but today we have a computer to draw on rather than a piece of parchment.”

With Hyperganic, instead of an engineer drawing an object themselves, they feed information about the qualities an object needs to have into an algorithm, that then comes up with a design based on that. The object is then printed by the machine. 

Hyperganic designed a rocket engine, for example, by feeding qualities that it would need to have into the algorithm. “Though, at first, we forgot to tell it that a rocket is usually cylindrical,” Kayser says, “so some of the first rockets were really weird.” 

Alongside complex objects like rockets, one of the tech’s key uses is printing customised objects, Kayser says. 

“For example, take a bike helmet. We start with a head scan and then the machine would grow the bike helmet on top of that scan, so it fits perfectly. And it can take crash statistics into account, so if someone falls off their bike, we can analyse the helmet, put the new data into the algorithm and improve the helmet.”

Hyperganic
A bike helmet designed by Hyperganic.

What could this change?

The objects are produced in “digital factories” factories that are usually totally automated and can print anything. “They’re also more local,” Kayser says, “because there’s not many people involved, you can put the factory nearer the consumer.”

Decentralising the factories means that the objects produced have much lower shipping emissions than others. 

The tool itself should also help engineers find ways to tackle the climate crisis, Kayser says, by accelerating how quickly solutions can be manufactured and tested. 

“If we can accelerate engineering, we can combine all the bright minds in the world and actually come up with solutions to the climate crisis, but not if they have to sit down and do lots of manual labour.” 

Another key change could come from the way goods are traded, says Kayser.

“The trade of physical goods is at its peak,” he says. “It’s being replaced by digital trade.” Hyperganic’s model is based on this you pay for the digital design rather than the object itself. 

“Physical supply chains are more and more turning into digital supply chains where intellectual property and designs are traded and manufacturing is done locally based on these digital goods,” Fabian Gruner, partner at VC firm HV Capital, who invested in Hyperganic, told Sifted. 

Hyperganic is seeing more interest from companies in Asia, particularly Singapore, Kayser says, specifically because it’s a country based on trade that needs to adapt to these changes. 

The future

Hyperganic plans to use the investment it’s just secured to expand its team. It currently has a team of twenty based in Europe and Asia. 

“If we’re successful, I think the industry will radically change,” Kayser says.

“You can create objects that are more advanced, more sustainable and more functional than what we have today. So, I believe that in 10 years from now, the objects that we produce are going to look at radically different from what we have today.”

A bike helmet designed by Hyperganics.
Final product: a bike helmet designed by Hyperganic.

 

Freya Pratty is Sifted’s news reporter. She tweets from @FPratty

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