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Arburg launched Industrie 4.0, which includes everything from intelligent machine to host machine and then to intelligent factory and intelligent services.
Arburg launched Industrie 4.0, which includes everything from intelligent machine to host machine and then to intelligent factory and intelligent services.

Based on the challenges faced by the injection molding industry, this paper leverages the Industry 4.0 solution launched by international leading suppliers in combination with the analysis of plastics production process to analyze the framework of intelligent injection molding factory.

Specifically, this paper tries to explore the development status and future trend of Industry 4.0 injection molding factory in the new age to present some diversified perspectives for industrial insiders.

Perspective of injection molding machinery suppliers

KraussMaffei launched Plastics 4.0 solution, which includes three aspects: Intelligent machine, where APC (Adaptive Process Control) is a new function of intelligent machine. This system automatically adapts parameters based on the viscosity variability of raw materials for intelligent production; Quality-oriented processing data in integrated production, an open system which can leverage DataXplorer to improve plastic processing capacity, and test, analyze and record comprehensive processing data in the plastic production process and upstream/ downstream processing process; Interactive service, leveraging the application of web cameras on networked machines based on OPC-UA report, customers can log in e-service platform at KraussMaffei website at any time to inquire into all central data, communicate with after-sale service department and find desired solution as soon as possible.

Arburg launched Industrie 4.0, which includes everything from intelligent machine to host machine and then to intelligent factory and intelligent services. The foundation of digital factory is based on production process. Other components include a central process management system and a central host machine system to collect, exchange and deposit data. As Arburg emphasized, there is no fit-for-all Industry 4.0 solution because one injection molding production process is often different from another. “Intelligent factory” requires the cooperation of different components to provide individual solutions.

Engel launched Inject 4.0, where relevant technology and foundation is provided in three collaborative sectors and intelligent injection molding factory is established to make full use of manufacturing potentials. As Engel adaptive injection molding machine and robotic arm, Smart Machine can identify the slightest difference in production conditions and obtain optimal molding parameters through the intelligent supporting system in the production process. Smart Server aims to reduce time for unexpected maintenance, and leverages continuous analysis of injection molding machine data and preventive maintenance to detect specific wear and estimate the remaining lifetime of components. Smart Production enables customers to integrate supporting machines in the production process to optimize resource allocation and improve production efficiency. T.I.G. MES authentig clearly displays networked injection molding machines for appropriate control.

Wittmann Battenfeld launched Wittmann 4.0, which leverages injection molding machine UNILOC control system to integrate peripheral equipment such as robotic arm, volume monitoring system, gravity mixer, mold temperature controller and dryer, and operate via Windows user interface to promote interaction for all systems and realize optimal coordination and tracking for the entire process from feeding, mixing, drying, temperature control, automation to plasticizing. Another important feature is that the central system will record all parameter settings, automatic processes and formulation, and allocate them to relevant devices when changing molds, thus substantially reducing mold changing time and cost.

Sodick launched MR30 unit manufacturing system that integrates injection molding machine with peripheral equipment. This system leverages built-in mold in 3D water cooling pipe to provide high productivity and leverages smallest cassette mold structure to form a single cavity molding system built in 3D cooling water pipe created using precision metal 3D printer OPM series. As standard layout, 2 mold temperature controllers can optimally regulate local temperature via double-system temperature control pipes to accomplish ideal high-quality high-speed molding and ensure proper molding machine and interface equipment size needed for single cavity molding. This provides sufficient proficiency for each unit, making the molding machine and interfacing equipment a compact integrated system and minimizing the molding zone. Fetching input/output signals from all interfacing equipment in the molding machine may enable unified management of the operation of all equipment via the operator panel of molding machine. As a result, it enables unified management of molding data and interfacing equipment data and leverages the synergistic effect of Sodick-IoT functions to provide latest production system corresponding around the world.

FANUC, the most diversified manufacturer of factory automation, robots and intelligent machinery, provides injection molding machinery integrating technology in a full range of sectors from multi-color molding, optical parts, powder injection molding to fiber composite molding and embedment injection molding. The proprietary industrial robots demonstrate the coordinated operation between all-electric injection molding machine and automatic system. The injection molding machine is provided with robots to pick up components. This machine features counter flow monitoring, precise metering, high-rigidity structure and latest control competence to provide interlinked view via robots and visual system to ensure high quality and high stability. As a result, this system is extensively used in fine chemicals, biomedicine, car electronics, fine gear, digital electronics, food packaging and mini connectors.

Sumitomo’s production management system, Sumitomo IOT iiil system automatically collects quality confirmation reports, pools reports on daily basis and checks remote molding status to improve site working efficiency and product quality. Customers are recommended to leverage unified data management, peripheral equipment interlinking and sensor interlinking to improve productivity and qualitywith IoT/M2M.

Perspective of plastics production process

Given the current status, some injection molding factories in China may fail to meet Industry 2.0 and 3.0 standards. It is rather impractical to harangue about Industry 4.0 under this situation. The fundamental foundation of intelligent injection molding is to use Computer Simulation Concept based on CAE mold flow analysis to help engineers check the feasibility of their products and mold designs, identify the most appropriate design group via data analysis and comparison and detect potential blind spots in the development stage. If we “leverage our past experience to decide future product design”, mold test cycles and mold cost will become unpredictable and industrial competitive edge tends to disappear.

After constant observation and research, Professor Jay Lee of University of Cincinnati pointed out that Industry 4.0 can be summarized as 6M+6C. According to ACMT Association, this theory is also applicable to intelligent injection molding factory and can be integrated for process improvement of intelligent injection molding factory. Specifically, 6M for injection molding workshop refers to informatization and automation for manufacturing production process and leverages production and manufacturing process automation and optimization through system integration. The 6M system includes Model, Measurement, Method, Machine, Material and Maintenance.

Model: In the process of designing products to be injection molded, it is required to analyze the technical requirements of plastic products. Based on DFM (Design for Manufacturing) design, it needs the support from design and manufacturing development platform. In the mold design process, CAD and CAE systems should collaborate like two senior engineers or specialists such that, in the CAD operating process, the engineer prepares preconditions and layout for CAE environment. The development of CAD/CAE integrating technology provides technical support for plastic component and mold design.

Measurement: In the past, engineers focused on the control process of injection molding machine parameters. In recent years, the molding control system based on cavity pressure is proved to be an important approach for high consistency and optimal quality of the production process. This is proved by the extensive application of many European equipment suppliers such as KraussMaffei, Arburg and Engel. Currently, there are a full range of application potentials from multi-cavity balanced confirmation of melt temperature, mold temperature, melt speed and melt front sensors to defect tracking, mold flow analysis, molding cycle reducing, shear viscosity improvement and molding conditions optimization. The effective use of available data in combination with mold flow analysis and automatic engineering can substantially improve productivity.

Method: The equipment, personnel and manufacturing process are complicated in the injection molding industry. Multiple processing procedures may coexist in actual production because some critical procedures are restricted by injection molding machine or other special circumstances. One mold has to work with multiple sets of equipment in the production process. As engineers are involved in the process, it is extremely important for them to master proper mold test knowledge and skills.

Machine: Injection molding machine and automatic equipment are both very expensive. Compared with traditional PACS management method, Creaform IoM system can automatically record the production efficiency of each injection molding machine at any time. The system not only leverages the loss evaluation to improve factory operation and overall production efficiency of production equipment, but also establishes the benchmark value of production efficiency for equipment or molds.

Maintenance: Mold quality directly affects the quality of plastic products. Molds feature long production cycle, complicated processing procedures and high production cost. In addition, corrosion, cracking, wear, washout or other aging problems may occur in the molding process. This may substantially affect the product quality and the service life of mold. Currently, most factories rely heavily on manual maintenance. Due to poor mold management, missing maintenance and delayed maintenance often happen. As data indicates, scheduled effective mold maintenance can extend mold lifecycle by 30%. This may effectively extend the operating cycles, reduce production cost and ensure product quality and delivery time.

Finally, many injection molding factories and manufacturers face the same problem today. They recruit employees and especially those for shift positions. The actual situation is that very few people prefer to engage in plastic molding work nowadays. Without sufficient working hands, the normal operation of factories could not be ensured. If the collaborative robots are assigned to do the repetitive and error-free tasks, employees can focus more on valuable production tasks and activities.

To maintain and promote the intelligent operation of injection molding factories, ACMT Association establishes ACMT Scientific Mold Test & Technical Center around the world. The center also intensifies cooperation with research institutions and promotes the development of injection molding industry.

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