Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 impact on plastic molding plants

The current global situation is generating great awareness about the number of robots and level of automation in many manufacturing companies around the world.

Robotics and automation are playing a fundamental role, as they allow for requisite spacing and reduce the crowds on the manufacturing floor. As the manufacturers struggle to continue producing everything they need, robotics and automation play a critical role in ensuring that companies continue to function.

Plastic injection processes have been being integrated into computerized systems for a long time. In 1986, Arburg presented a completely automated production system that connected a series of machines with each other using a central computer. This system reduced the setup time almost to zero. At the time, this system was named Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM), today it is known as Industry 4.0.

The basis of the concept:

1. Information transparency
The ability of information systems to create a virtual copy of the physical world by enriching digital plant models with sensor data. This requires the aggregation of sensors to capture the raw data.

2. Interoperability
The ability of machines, devices, sensors and people to connect and communicate with each other through the IoT and the internet of people, also known as IoP.

3. Technical assistance
First, the ability of care systems to support humans by aggregating and displaying information in an understandable way to assist in making informed decisions and solving urgent problems at short notice. Second, the ability of cyber-physical systems to physically support human beings by carrying out a series of tasks that are unpleasant, too exhausting, or unsafe for their human collaborators.

4. Decentralized decisions
The ability of cyber-physical systems to make decisions independently and carry out their tasks in the most autonomous way possible. These tasks would be delegated to a higher level only in exceptional cases.

Nowadays, the most common objective of a plastic injection plant is to cut back costs by producing at the minimum required quality standard. To complete this objective, companies review the current operating levels, trying to find possible sources of problems or bottlenecks that they can focus on to improve the process. Once a part of the process has been improved, a subsequent problem or bottleneck is identified and an effort is made to improve that part of the process; of the goal is to optimize the operation in general to achieve high efficiency levels.

Molding companies that are incorporating the concept of Industry 4.0 into their processes also follow these essential practices. They need to adjust the production process intuitively and without the need for advanced knowledge. The main objective is that the machines used can easily incorporate peripherals and analyze and control the process parameters, while at the same time centralize all data management and provide remote support and assistance functions for operators.

The adoption and implementation of automated and digitized systems typical of Industry 4.0 are generating great benefits for the whole plastics industry, not only improving the efficiency of processes, but also facilitating market entry for small manufacturers due to the ease of access to technologies that were previously only accessible to large companies.

Robotics, process virtualization, additive manufacturing and real-time data management are just a few of the benefits that plastics manufacturers are taking advantage of to enhance their competitive position. CFOs, however, demand a solid foundation to make sure the return on investment justifies the transition to Industry 4.0.

As far as this transformation and adaptation are concerned, in line with an initial study carried out by Siemens, the application of Industry 4.0 technologies would bring significant cost reductions to the plastics sector industries in several countries.

Digitization brings great advantages to the industry, including the reduction of manual interaction. Currently, there are many processes within the industry where the systems even require the data to be entered manually.

The MES/MOM systems are a part of another of the key aspects within the fourth industrial revolution with the most profound operational impact; also referred to as industry 4.0 platforms, they combine data from different systems and provide analyses with different parameters regarding production and maintenance, as well as set stable quality criteria or monitor inventory and stocks in real-time.

The key to efficient regulation and control of machines, automation, and therefore the entire manufacturing process from an Industry 4.0 perspective is the interconnection of IT networks with a high-performance MES system that is directly linked to the company network. This permits molders to gather, process, analyze, and archive all relevant data such as work orders, machine setup, process and quality.

The eventual integration of information technology into “smart” machines could change the processing of plastics to the equivalent extent that the smartphone has changed our lifestyle in recent years. However, unlike a smartphone, Industry 4.0 isn’t a “buy and use” product.

Plastics processors do not have to set up a fully connected “smart factory” overnight to implement Industry 4.0 in their company. Instead, they will evaluate the individual concepts and technologies behind the concept, develop a technique that is tailored to the company’s unique competencies, operations and process requirements, then gradually implement it.

In a few years, the digital factory will control and optimize itself. In other words, production data won’t be centralized but will be displayed and evaluated in a decentralized and mobile way via tablets, smartphones, or any other smart devices. Humans will monitor processes and sequences and intervene only when necessary. “Mass customization” (individualization of high-volume parts) will become relatively simple and profitable. This might require a high degree of automation and an in-depth network of order, machine, mold and logistics information. Machines and individual systems must be coordinated with standardized data protocols and interfaces before all of this can be possible.

We don’t really know yet what Industry 4.0 will eventually become. In this article, we’ve examined a number of the applications that already exist and that we think are going to be possible as these technologies are refined and implemented. However, it’ll be up to plastics processors to determine what Industry 4.0 will really turn out to be.