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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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injection mold 
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Engel’s inject 4.0 programme consists of three areas: smart machine, smart service and smart production.
Engel’s inject 4.0 programme consists of three areas: smart machine, smart service and smart production.

In the future, more products will be offered in increasingly diverse design variations and high precision. Smaller batch production, together with rising costs and scheduling pressures are driving injection molding to be “smarter”. As such, leading European machine builders are also smarter in tackling the challenge by introducing more advanced Industry 4.0 functions into their machines and control systems.

A modularized approach for smart factories

Engel refers its answer for a smart factory as inject 4.0 programme, a modularized approach that allows processors to take advantage of solutions tailored to their own needs. It is established upon three key operational areas: smart machine, smart service and smart production.

At Fakuma 2018, ENGEL will demonstrate how a highly integrated production cell produces two-part callipers using ABS. In the demonstration, the importance of self-adapting assistance in the smart machine area will be shown.

One of the challenges of this application is that both components have widely varying shot weights. In order to already produce a usable part with the first shot following the setup, the injection molding machine continuously optimizes itself with the help of three intelligent assistance systems from the inject 4.0 programme.

While iQ weight control readjusts the melt volume for each individual shot, iQ clamp control calculates the optimal clamping force and sets it automatically. iQ flow control, the third assistance system on the setup, automatically compensates temperature differences in the cooling water manifold circuit based on the measurements determined by e-flomo, and adjusts the pump speed in the e-temp temperature control units to the current process conditions.

For smart service, solutions are aimed at minimizing planned, and especially unplanned, maintenance. Engel’s predictive maintenance systems reliably identify wear and estimate the remaining service life of system components through continuous evaluation of machine data.

If an unplanned downtime should still occur, fast and straightforward assistance is critical, Engel provides e-connect.24 remote online maintenance. The free Engel e-connect customer portal pools all available information for the systems. In the event of an issue, the portal allows users to send a service request directly to Engel.

For smart production, the focus is on Manufacturing Execution System (MES) authentig. It is developed by T.I.G. Technische Informationssysteme GmbH, which is part of the Engel Group.

In the Engel inject 4.0 Forum held earlier in Austria this year, Engel put forward the “platform” concept as the next step for Industry 4.0. According to Stefan Engleder, CEO, Engel Holding GmbH, the whole platform can be divided into vertical and horizontal platforms.

The vertical platform targets functional optimization by smart devices like injection molding machines while the horizontal platform targets cross functional optimization such as different types of machines.

Engleder expects that these platforms will form digital marketplace for different plants or different technologies such as extrusion, recycling, etc.

Realizing transparent production planning

Meanwhile, KraussMaffei is bundling its Industry 4.0 solutions under the umbrella brand Plastics 4.0. This includes intelligent, self-optimizing machine functions, reliable tools for seamless data acquisition and networking throughout production as well as range of worldwide services. In sum, they contribute to turning a manufacturing operation into a smart factory.

The program function of MaXecution for the graphic fine planning of manufacturing orders. KraussMaffei has developed the new MaXecution, a MES specifically tailored to the demands of small and medium-sized injection molding companies.

As introduced, it creates more transparency in production using productivity indicators concerning, for instance, overall equipment effectiveness, mold management and resources and statistics on machines and rejects.

The new MaXecution is based on the well-known HYDRA MES from MPDV Mikrolab GmbH (MPDV), the MES provider from Mosbach, Germany. It is offered in three stages of expansion.

In this way, the user can decide how many MES functionalities are needed based on the individual requirements. If the user requires additional functions beyond these services, the option is available to switch to the HYDRA by MPDV at any time.

APC plus machine function is another service of the Plastics 4.0 solutions from KraussMaffei. It ensures extremely weight-consistent components and the highest process reliability. This ensures that virtually every part is a good part. This saves materials and money.

The intelligent APC plus machine function is suited for processing thermoplastics, for multi-component injection molding or for processing silicone. Special applications such as thin-walled parts or cascade injection molding are possible. Furthermore, it allows for processing recycled material.

Customized mass production becomes possible

From the smart machine and host computer system to the smart factory and smart services, Arburg offers solutions a “smart” injection molding company needs to enhance added value in networked and flexibly automated production, production efficiency and process reliability.

As a central component of Industry 4.0, the Arburg host computer system (ALS) enables complete traceability of orders, batches and individual parts. Machines and peripheral components can thus be networked in a simple, standardized way by means of interfaces based on the OPC UA application protocol. It makes possible efficient production of customized mass products.

Easier and safer connecting

An important feature of WITTMANN 4.0, the WITTMANN Group’s Industry 4.0 solution, is known by the name of Plug & Produce. The term stands for the fact that this concept is able to make mold change easier and safer.

To make a plastic part in the required good quality, a number of peripheral appliances are normally needed in addition to the processing machines, which work together with the injection molding machine in various ways.
The robot operation on UNILOG B8 control system.
These include primarily mold temperature controllers and chillers, material dryers and gravimetric or volumetric blenders. The injection molding machine and the appliances connected to it – where necessary also including a robot with downstream automation and quality inspection – are all combined with each other to form an injection molding production cell.

To ensure faultless production of a part, all these individual appliances within the production cell must be programmed with the correct mold-specific parameters.

In a WITTMANN 4.0 production cell, these parameters – together with those of the mold itself – can be saved in the injection molding machine’s UNILOG B8 control system. The means of communication used in this case is an Ethernet network operating with the standardized Industry 4.0 OPC UA application protocol.

A special characteristic of the plastics industry is that injection molding production cells are formed in an extremely flexible way when it comes to the peripherals included. Depending on the part to be produced in each case, several different peripherals or peripherals with different settings are required.

Thanks to WITTMANN 4.0 Plug & Produce, there is no need for machine operators to acquire any knowledge in the area of IT technology, except to realize that the network cables of the required appliances must be plugged into the network switch of the production cell. The IT configuration of the production cell, which is still necessary, is handled by the WITTMANN 4.0 Router specially developed for that purpose.

The WITTMANN 4.0 Router combines all appliances in the production cell and represents the entire production cell externally with a single IP address. In this way, the coherence of the relevant data is also ensured for any MES system which is required to collect data from an injection molding machine and the peripherals connected to it, without the risk of having the data in another production cell erroneously assigned to a given injection molding machine.

In the opposite direction, the WITTMANN 4.0 Router also makes sure that an injection molding machine can only recognize those peripherals which are present in its own production cell.

If the data set with the production parameters is not already recorded in the injection molding machine, the machine can also retrieve it from an MES system. In this case, the data are routed via the firewall integrated in the WITTMANN 4.0 Router. 

Latest EUROMAP 77 standard for digital interfaces 

EUROMAP 77, the first OPC UA based interface for plastics and rubber machinery, was released earlier in this year and is available on

EUROMAP 77 is the first standard for digital interfaces used for the connection of injection molding machines to central computers/MES.
EUROMAP develops standards for cross-manufacturer communication based on OPC UA.
Compared to its predecessor EUROMAP 63, EUROMAP 77 offers extended functionality to enable state of the art digital communication, thus paving the way for Industry 4.0.

With EUROMAP 77, machines from different manufacturers can be easily connected in one network for monitoring and production data acquisition, managing jobs and transferring whole datasets for machine settings.

Connected production is not only about collecting as much data as possible but also to organize and interpret them in an intelligent manner. The MES plays a central role regarding the organization of the data transfer.

Only then, the collected data will have the desired added value for the user. EUROMAP 77 will prove this also in serial implementations, all of those involved are convinced.

The manufacturers of plastics and rubber machinery jointly work under the umbrella of EUROMAP to advance the developments of further open standards for digital interfaces. They regard joint standards for the broad and successful implementation of Industry 4.0 as a central precondition.

EUROMAP works on a holistic concept and takes into account the connectivity of the complete production chain, which means also the periphery, when developing the standards. In progress are, amongst others:

  • EUROMAP 82: Data exchange between injection molding machines and temperature control devices
  • EUROMAP 79: Data exchange between injection molding machines and robots.

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