Darwin AI secures $8.1 million CAD to improve efficiency of electronics manufacturing

Darwin AI printed circuit board
CEO says the global shortage of semiconductors and PCBs “favour disruption.”

Kitchener-Waterloo-based Darwin AI has raised $8.1 million CAD ($6 million USD) in a recent investment round.

The all-equity, primary financing was led by BDC Capital’s Deep Tech Venture Fund, with participation from new and existing investors that Darwin AI declined to disclose. The company classified the financing as an extension, but told BetaKit that it was raised at a “slightly lower valuation” than the company’s last round in 2020. Given the circumstances, Darwin AI’s most recent funding could be more accurately classified as a bridge round.

”The global shortage of semiconductors and PCBs … has given rise to circumstances that favour disruption.”
– Sheldon Fernandez, Darwin AI CEO

Founded in 2017, Darwin AI’s platform was built under the guidance of University of Waterloo professor and Canada Research chair in AI Alexander Wong. The company has worked with a number of Fortune 500 corporations in the past on various AI projects such as Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, BMW, Audi, and Intel, among others.

According to Darwin AI, its initial focus is to improve the efficiency of Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) production for the electronics manufacturing industry with its AI-powered visual quality inspection platform.

DarwinAI Team
Kitchener-Waterloo startup Darwin AI’s team. Image courtesy Darwin AI.

PCBs are embedded in everything that requires electricity, from microwaves to cameras, and Darwin AI noted that they can be difficult to visually inspect due to different board sizes and complicated geometries. According to the company, AI-powered visual inspection provides a solution for these challenges and can be used in many scenarios that require visual analysis.

Darwin AI CEO Sheldon Fernandez said that the global shortage of semiconductors and PCBs has fostered the circumstances to “favour disruption.” To take advantage of those circumstances, Darwin AI is targeting clients that engage in PCB assembly manufacturing, including companies in the electronic manufacturing service industry and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

“While we were not the first to take note of this fact, it occurred to us that no one was building a product that combined artificial intelligence, hardware, and software into a system that was easy to integrate into the electronics manufacturing process,” Fernandez said.

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By making the processes of deploying inspection units and data analysis “more straightforward,” according to Fernandez, clients can install the platform in novel locations and enable new capabilities such as returned product verification, process auditing, and retrospective quality inspection.

The capital from this recent investment round will be used to enhance Darwin AI’s system for mass market deployment and to ramp up hardware production to expand its footprint, according to the startup.

Darwin AI has raised approximately $21 million CAD ($15.5 million USD) in total funding to date. This includes a financing round in 2020 that accumulated around $5 million USD and $3.9 million in seed funding in 2018.

Featured image courtesy Darwin AI.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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