Textile manufacturing gets “Smartex” with AI, cameras and VC funding

Categories Edge Computing News  |  Funding
Textile manufacturing gets “Smartex” with AI, cameras and VC funding

Portugal-based startup Smartex is aiming to apply artificial intelligence to an industry that has seen underinvestment in technology – textiles manufacturing. Smartex recently raised $2.6M in funding with DCVC, Momenta Ventures, Spider Capital, and SOSV participating. The company also recently won $2.2m in grant money from the European Union to continue developing its technology.

Smartex has developed a solution that combines computer vision and AI to change how companies perform quality control in textile manufacturing.

Currently, most textile companies inspect their products roll-by-roll, with up to thousands of meters of fabric often manufactured before they are manually inspected. Manufacturing defects are often repetitive so a single problem on a machine can lead to an entire roll of unusable fabric. As a result, the textile industry sees upwards of 5% of global production lost every year due to irreversible faults in fabric, representing a $33bn dollar annual loss from raw materials alone.

Smartex is trying to solve the problem by installing a unique device inside the textile machine that monitors fabric quality within 10cm of where it is made. A special set of cameras film the fabric and the proprietary AI algorithm analyzes these images in real-time. When a defect is found, Smartex sends a signal to the machine, stops it and allows technicians to adjust the machine. Smartex not only finds the typical defects that can be detected during manual inspection, but also sees problems invisible to the human eye, thereby reducing waste from defective production to close to zero.

More Momenta

Of the investing partners, Momenta Ventures has been particularly active in industrial-focused edge computing investments this year. Investments in which Momenta participated include:

Mutable Inc., an early player in public edge cloud technology, closed a $1.5 million seed round of funding.

Edge Impulse, which provides a platform for developing intelligent devices using embedded machine learning, secured $5.4m in funding.

HighByte, which is trying to solve industry 4.0 data architecture and security roadblocks with DataOps technology.

SST Wireless, which makes wireless sensors that are placed in extremely demanding environments.

“I am very excited about backing the Smartex Team. They have a great vision and the experience to understand the challenge as the founders operated the same types of machines where Smartex is installed now. This extremely innovative solution is solving one of the biggest financial and sustainability problems in a massive target market,” said Momenta’s Ben Steven in a blog post.

Gilberto Loureiro, CEO of Smartex said “I’m personally happy about having Momenta Partners as an investor. There couldn’t be a better fit for digital industry, and integration of technology across manufacturing lines to improve processes, digitize production and increase bottom lines which is exactly what we do in textiles. Having a practitioner like Ben, with his deep textile manufacturing experience, supporting us is extremely valuable.”

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