How Celus (formerly Contunity) is Revolutionizing Electronics Engineering
Creativity is “the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form”. One specific answer (in this case from Encyclopedia Britannica) to a simple yet wide ranging question: what is creativity. In my opinion, creativity is also a defining human capability. It’s an area where we are extremely good at and our creative capacity sets us apart from other beings (although animals or even algorithms can show forms of creativity).
A highly positive feature of AI now is it’s capacity to automate monotonic and “non-creative” tasks. This obviously frees up our time and energy, allowing us to focus on more convoluted problems where our creativity is needed. As an example, the chart below shows IT categories with respective proportions to be automated, with the percentages at the far right of the chart illustrating where most of the specialists’ effort will go in the future. In giving us the opportunity to automate non-creative tasks (often with higher performance in terms of speed and error-rate), machine learning enables us to concentrate our effort on what we are best at and gives us a higher chance to solve the most pressing issues of our time.
Printed Circuit Boards
One very specific area where machine learning takes over mundane tasks is the area of electronics and printed circuit boards. Simply put, PCBs are the basic and core of any electronic design, from coffee machines to more complex structures such as smartphones. They are a combination of conductive components on insulating material and confine necessary elements (microcontrollers, resistors, transistors etc.) to a mechanical structure. As such PCBs are a crucial element to today’s sophistication of technology and serve as the foundation for smartphones, computers etc.
The engineering of PCBs and electronics comes with major challenges though: the very large number of parts as well as their interconnection and dependencies make it highly complex. On the other hand, many steps of the design process are highly manual (and partly mundane), consuming large amounts of (highly trained) engineering hours (think of going through hundreds of pages of datasheet and finding the right specification). As a result, it is prone to errors and a bottleneck in time-to-market of the device it is meant to support (e.g. the smartphone or coffee machine). In particular the last point is an imminent pain point for a large number of corporates.
This is where Celus (former Contunity) comes in, with their solution automating the core parts of electronics engineering and design. Their algorithm builds on already existing electronics IP within companies and selects which modules and sub-parts go into the design. Schematics development then determines the dependencies and interconnection between these parts while layout automation defines the spatial allocation (where the parts are actually located on the board). The final step of automating electronics engineering is software development related to hardware and application. Applied in the field, this helps customers save up to 90% of development time, leading to substantial cost savings and vastly accelerated time-to-market. Moreover, it helps to optimize for specific key parameters, such as spatial density, computational performance and hones in on the tasks where an algorithm can potentially outperform.
The initial and current approach is to target the market segments, where PCBs are rather enablers than the real core components (think automotive industry or other industrial verticals). These customers typically develop their PCBs in-house, as deep knowledge about the core product (e.g. automotive braking systems) is needed for the design and development of PCBs. The larger vision though is to fundamentally transform the engineering and design process of electronics in general, tapping into a massive yet still growing market of over 4 trillion Euro (see below). More importantly though, it envisions a world where every engineer can fully focus developing complex and innovative solutions the world’s most complex problems (while non-creative tasks are outsourced to Celus’ solution).
Besides everything mentioned above and the validation by industrial experts, a good solution and setting is worth nothing without execution. Indeed, we believe that executional excellence is the greatest strength of Tobi, Alex and André and their team. In addition to the technical excellency (coming out of TU Munich) and personal strength, we believe it’s the hands-on and result-driven approach more than anything else which will lead to an outsized success and enable them to turn their vision into reality.
However, we think there is more behind it: drawing to the initial context, we firmly believe that the solution of Celus will free up highly capable engineering talent and creativity to focus on broader issues and topics. In this way it also fits perfectly in the Speedinvest i team thesis, seeing industrial tech first and foremost as a transformative enabler. We feel glad to support Celus on their way to revolutionize electronics engineering.
If you have any questions or want to discuss your industrial tech startup, send me a message on LinkedIn.