PT_Plastics Today

Plastics Today, September 2015

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Manufacturing technologies 20 global plastics report 2015 plasticstoday.coM addressed. One is climate change, which will lead to higher costs of energy, mate- rials and water. Others include, demo- graphic changes, resulting in labor short- ages; globalization, requiring molders to compete with production in the emerg- ing markets; technical developments and individualization, calling for flexible and efficient small-series production of often complex products. Smart machines prepare molders for this future and help them to produce more quickly and flex- ibly. They open the door for highly effi- cient, scalable production, individualiza- tion and autonomous process control. "This is possible through data integra- tion—horizontal, along the value chain, and along multiple chains, and vertical, across different levels," said Engleder. "And the product is the heart of 4.0. The manufactured product is where all these processes meet. As products become intelligent, they interact with the machine at the level of the machine, rather than via a central unit, which makes production far more flexible." Important in this respect is the human-machine interface. As Gerhard Dimmler, Senior Vice President of Prod- uct R&D at Engel pointed out: "Mold- ers must be able to take full advantage of the capabilities of the machine, yet with- out the operator having to have addi- tional knowledge. We are aligning our products with the key elements of 4.0." To that end, Engel has developed and patented a suite of iQ solutions, the newest of which is its iQ weight-control software, which recognizes and auto- matically compensates for fluctuations in melt viscosity online, in real time. To achieve this, the software analyses the pressure profile at the screw position in real time during the injection process and compares the measured values with a reference cycle online. Based on these results, the switchover point and the injection profile are adjusted as neces- sary, in order to keep the injected vol- ume constant during the entire produc- tion run. Thus, the effects of fluctuations in viscosity on the filling of the mold, especially in applications with switchover points that depend on the injection pres- sure, can also be compensated. And the newest version of the software incorpo- rates automatic holding pressure correc- tion, making it possible to compensate for fluctuations in viscosity, even after the injection phase has been completed, by adjusting the holding pressure profile. Molding a future of mass customization Similarly, at German machine manu- facturer Arburg, implementation of the principles of Industry 4.0 is an ongoing process. The company demonstrated, for example, the possibilities it offers with a fully networked process chain earlier this year at the Hannover Messe. Large-volume parts were individualized with Industry 4.0 technologies, linking Allrounder injection molding machines and the Freeformer to achieve what the company called "mass customization." Intelligent machines in a network infra- structure yield production efficiencies and flexibility for molders to make smart products. In line with the general trend, the Wittmann group also offers an option to link machines with the connected robots and peripherals and operate all appli- ances via its uniform Windows operating system interface. This makes interac- tion between the individual appliances possible, as well as data exchange with supervisory systems. This solution has been named Wittmann 4.0 and includes proprietary software interface modules between the machine, the robot and peripherals, enabling an identical repro- duction of the respective user interface displays on the B6P machine control system's display panel. This software adjusts itself automatically and flexibly to the software installed in every periph- eral appliance, including future software updates. Mainstreaming the smart plastics factory Hence, in just a few short years, Industry 4.0 has rapidly evolved from a vision of a remote future to the reality of tomor- row. However, there are still myriad challenges to be overcome before the smart factory in the plastics industry goes mainstream. One of the most important of these is the need for open standards and sys- tems to enable easy connections and communication within the 4.0 net- works. And while a company like Wit- tman, for example, has not waited for standards to be developed—developing its own, instead—the need, not only for automation systems that can handle the vast amount of data generated, but that can communicate efficiently with one another has now been generally acknowledged by the industry. Efforts toward standardization are currently being made by the Euro- pean association of rubber machinery manufacturers, which is developing a new interface for standardized com- munication between injection molding machines and central computers/MES systems. "Seamless communication all the way from the sensor to the Internet, for example, is a precondition for Industry 4.0," said Günther Grimm, Head of Software/Control Systems at KraussMaf- fei. "The goal is to define harmonized, new recommendations for data exchange in the injection molding machinery seg- ment. This offers great potential for the future." And not just for the major players in the industry. Open standard archi- tectures and non-proprietary solutions will also benefit small and medium-sized enterprises, as they will not be confront- ed with closed concepts from the big companies that shape the market. It's not going to happen overnight. But for the average small or medium- sized company, networked manufactur- ing will provide the edge and flexibility they need to remain internationally com- petitive in a globalized environment. For these companies, progress toward smart production will occur incrementally. But occur it will . . . if they are smart. and the product is the heart of 4.0. the manufactured product is where all these processes meet.

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