Close this search box.

AI generated interactive 3D tool takes factory planning to the next level


At HxGN LIVE Global in Las Vegas, Mark Venables caught up Jan Büchsenschütz, co-founder of RIIICO to discuss the company’s AI solution that creates a true-to-life simulation of a plant with a single 3D scan.

Back in June Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division announced the winners of its first cohort of start-ups selected to help the manufacturing industry operate more sustainably and efficiently. The company launched the Sixth Sense open innovation platform in January to challenge how multinationals approach innovation and help nurture creative solutions to emerging manufacturing challenges by connecting with world-class companies to solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges. The two joint winners were chosen following an intense eight-week training programme to hone their business model and approach, concluding with a final presentation to a panel of expert judges to pitch for the resources to globalise and gain access to Hexagon’s extensive customer base.

One of these winners was RIIICO, that has designed a ‘Sims-style’ drag and drop virtual factory floor. Its AI solution creates a true-to-life simulation of a plant with a single 3D scan, empowering teams with the tools and flexibility to collaborate and improve on factory design from anywhere in the world. This has enormous productivity improvement potential, with around 80% of factory improvements currently getting stuck in the ideation phase. This can remove barriers to greener workflows by making the identification, installation, and optimisation of them as painless and low-resource as possible. The young team of university friends from Germany launched the company just last year and since joining the platform have already been backed by the likes of UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck fund, multiple investors, and AI experts in the US and Germany.

Putting the innovation into German manufacturing

When Jan Büchsenschütz, co-founder of RIIICO explains that it all started with a love of manufacturing. “I always wanted to create this digital world where everybody can be part,” he says. “As a German we rely a lot on manufacturing and honestly speaking, in Germany we are not the most innovative about factories; sometimes we want to keep things the way they are. But me I love manufacturing. I also love gaming, creating worlds and I thought if we want to be the main driver for the next decade or century, we really have to focus on how we can build the best factories out there.

“We noticed that while there is a lot of gathering of 3D data, there has not been a smart solution to process this data into interactive 3D models. To address this we set off last year to build our vision of what we call a visual digital twin. We take the 3D data, we run an AI algorithm that detects 1000s of objects in these scans.

“The next step is to use artificial intelligence. We use deep learning that goes from data point to data point to data point and based on geometric object detection, identifies objects, and does an instant segmentation to it creates an entire new object out of that. Then we undertake meshing to create a surface object and utilise auto completion to make a more holistic view of the entire factory environment.

Delivering cutting edge factory solutions

Büchsenschütz explains that they take a different approach to building 3D software. What they have developed is a front end, where everybody without prior training, can open up their laptop and start mocking up in a 3D space, generating more resilient factories, more sustainable factories. The apparent simplicity of the solution naturally begs the question of why no-one has done this before? “It’s simple because it’s simple by design,” Büchsenschütz continues. “I’m a big fan of gaming, and factory planning is really complicated. So I thought that to be innovative on this, we need to make this simple and easy to use. But behind that simple appearance there is state of the art deep learning. We are pioneering this, and it hasn’t been seen on this level in the market to date.

“We always joke with our investors in Silicon Valley that we are not building the next Zoom or dating app, we are building cutting edge factory solutions. That requires a lot of programming on the back-end level. We think the future of manufacturing is collaborative, so you can now take the 3D model and export it anywhere into any other simulation software such as Siemens plant simulation, or Tecnomatics to conduct material flow simulation.”

One of the main challenges RIIICO  faced was obtaining the training data to recognise these objects. “If you use image recognition to detect dogs you will need to 1000s of pixel labelled dogs in pictures to train the software,” Büchsenschütz explains. “Part of our USP and core trade secret IP is that we found a smart way to not have to rely on customer data to create these models.”

Putting the speed in innovation

Büchsenschütz credits Patrick Mertens, the CTO, as the brains behind the technology and the man that set the company on its rapid rise. Mertens had previously worked in Silicon Valley for Nvidia. His mantra was always that RIIICO would have to move fast or crash, and that became part of the company’s culture. It breed the strategy of ‘move fast and if we fail, we fail’.  “Part of the reason we have been able to move so fast was we developed the first prototype and we started talking to our validation partners, Siemens, and Volkswagen about it,” Büchsenschütz continues. “They had been collecting the scan data for three or four years and they realised that with this tool they did not have to redraw everything by hand, which was the alternative.

“After we built the front end and had fun moving stuff around we realised that people had other important assets which they require for factory plan. So we allow them to import of any CSV file, which is often provided by the machine provider, which allows our customers to play around with new scenarios.”

Since the product’s launch in March RIIICO have several beta customers and have been growing at the rate of 30 per cent month on month. Although Siemens and Volkswagen were the initial customer, they now have a host of industrial automotive customers. This rapid development can often cause companies to struggle whether for investment, the right people or to deliver product fast enough but Büchsenschütz has no such concerns. “We were really lucky to be supported by UC Berkeley from the beginning and became part of UC Berkeley Skydeck, its accelerator. They provided us with amazing advisors, mentors, and serial entrepreneurs, who helped us from the start to progress. Sixth Sense is just another really important brick on top because they have known about these problems for decades. So what will help is Hexagon will add a lot of value to our customers by including us into the ecosystem.”

Leaning on a love of gaming

Several times during the conversation Büchsenschütz alluded to his love of gaming, and that experience appear integral to how the product was developed. “If I look at 3D planning solutions now, I think if I would have known how complex the entire space is beforehand, I probably would not have started working in this space,” he explains. “But it was just us trying to say let’s do it. I mean, we were young straight from college and wanted to make factory manufacturing better. Let’s just do it and that allowed us to make a breakthrough there. This is why we became a top 50 technology company according to McKinsey, and why we received so many awards.

“I think the gamification part is essential. Because honestly, factory planning is so complicated and tiring, and it is a lot of stress and fighting between departments. When we sell this, we sell this per square metre annually, because I want everyone from the CEO to the blue collar worker to be able to use this as a fun tool to play around and start making manufacturing better, so everybody is included. It’s not only about the fun and easy going it is about the inclusion of having all these people involved. The access and fun, is what is driving factory innovation.”

CTS The industrialisation of IT
CTS - Industrialisation of IT
Related Posts
CTS The industrialisation of IT
Others have also viewed

Germany Energy Efficiency Act demonstrates importance of data centre supply chain collaboration

Following the signing into law of Germany’s Energy Efficiency Act (EnEfG), energy solutions specialist Aggreko ...
Data Centre

Vertiv collaborates with Intel on liquid cooled solution

Vertiv is collaborating with Intel to provide a liquid cooling solution that will support the ...
Supply chain

Will technology save the supply chain?

It is no surprise that events in recent years have led to supply chain shortages ...

Generative AI at work: Creating a transparent company culture

The power of generative AI has risen to prominence in the past year. Even for ...