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Industrie 4.0 will make its mark on the plastics machinery industry - Thorsten Kühmann, Managing Director Plastics and Rubber Machinery, is sure of that.

By Katrin Pudenz

Colored polymer © Fotolia / digitalstockOur lives today are unimaginable without plastics. Almost every item we hold in our hands has plastic in it somewhere, so clean and sustainable production is extremely important. "We want to show that plastics can be produced in a sustainable and energy-efficient way, and especially that they can be recycled," says Thorsten Kühmann.

Energy efficiency is a big part of sustainable production, which is the link to Industrie 4.0, he continues. "Digital information is recorded at every stage. This allows us to produce more accurately, save materials, meet the customers' requirements exactly and even implement individual series production. I am absolutely convinced that Industrie 4.0 will find more and more uses," says Kühmann emphatically.

Examples of Industrie 4.0 in the plastics industry

Energy-efficient injection molding: Engel Austria has done a lot of work on energy-efficiency in injection molding. The Austrian mechanical engineering company is now using a new module to display the energy consumption of each individual machinery outlet in injection molding and expanding its manufacturing execution system (MES) e-factory. A real fan of Industrie 4.0, Engel considers the connection and integration of production systems a key feature of the smart factory that is at the heart of its inject 4.0 program. With its own MES, the mechanical engineering company helps its customers to increase their productivity and efficiency through connection. The Engel-e-factory is designed to meet the requirements of the injection molding industry and can ensure deep vertical data integration down to the level of individual cavities. The display, analysis and optimization of energy consumption is a new feature.

The module can also distribute amounts of electricity intelligently among individual consumers. According to the Austrian mechanical engineering company, this hall management is especially valuable when the entire machine park is started up at once, such as after the weekend or a halt in operations. Dynamic consumption limits are defined for each consumer to make sure that no energy peaks occur even in cases like that. For Engel, energy efficiency is the key to low unit costs. Intelligent energy distribution is becoming more and more important, say the Austrian experts. They are sure that the connection of the machine park as part of Industrie 4.0 unlocks new opportunities here.

Customized production of a pair of scissors: An example of Industrie 4.0 and of customized series production can be found in the Black Forest, at the mechanical engineering company Arburg. The challenge was to customize the high-volume component "office scissors". As Arburg's Managing Director for Technology, Heinz Gaub, explains, the task involved combining injection molding, additive production and Industrie 4.0 technologies in a flexibly-automated cyber-physical production system. This is the future in a smart factory "that will control and optimize itself," he says. This means that the production data is no longer managed centrally, but is displayed and analyzed locally on mobile devices. Production of the scissors works like this: When the order is taken, a customized engraving for the scissors is recorded on a tablet PC, passed on to an all-rounder injection molding machine and the series production initiated.

Plastics 4.0: VDMA member the KraussMaffei Group has also worked out how Industrie 4.0 can become an opportunity for plastics processing. "Our focus when implementing Industrie 4.0 in plastics processing is on production efficiency, flexibility, automation, availability and quality," says Christian Blatt, CEO of the KraussMaffei Group. Under the heading "Plastics 4.0", the company develops solutions and divides them into intelligent machines, integrated production and interactive services.

Intelligent machines are self-optimizing machines that improve productivity and quality, such as the adaptive process control (APC) function. According to the company, this function detects fluctuations in the process that can be triggered by changing environmental conditions or fluctuating viscosity and takes countermeasures independently. Integrated production, on the other hand, means continuously connected production in which the individual machines and components communicate with one another and control processes autonomously. Interactive services, such as using remote maintenance tools, are the equivalent of fast, global customer support.

KraussMaffei is driving Industrie 4.0 forward as a reaction to growing wages, and because important customers like the automotive industry are now demanding that suppliers save all process parameters for five to ten years, so that production can be traced if damage occurs. The KraussMaffei Group is thus helping its customers to exploit the potential of intelligent and flexible production using state-of-the-art information and communication technology, and supporting them as they optimize their supply chains.

Industrie 4.0 for added value

"Industrie 4.0 works and adds value," emphasizes VDMA expert Kühmann. Industrie 4.0 solutions can vary widely between users. This a good thing, as it offers scope for customized solutions, but a shared framework is also needed. That makes it essential to agree on standards - for the benefit of both mechanical engineering companies and their customers. VDMA is very active on this issue and works to bring technical expertise together. At trade fairs and in publications, the Association makes efforts to highlight the opportunities of Industrie 4.0, sweep away reservations, and initiate discussion. This way, the implementation of I4.0 will be a success.

Further Information

VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery   |   K2016

Thorsten Kühmann, Managing Director VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery.