Oak Brook, Illinois – Industry 4.0 came to the Society of Plastics Engineers’ annual blow molding conference in Oak Brook.
Speakers from two mechanical engineering companies – Group Sidel and Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH – discussed the future and what is happening today.
What if a blow molding machine could set itself up to shape a bottle – calculate its own recipe and figure out the bottle shape parameters, even manage the changeover to a new shape?
Welcome to the Sidel Group’s Agility 4.0 program.
Thierry Deau, Agility 4.0 project manager, described an “intelligent blow molding machine”. Some of it is a dream of the future, some is already a reality for the French mechanical engineering company.
The intelligent blow molding machine could control the whole process including automation. “The last evolution is digitization to achieve Industry 4.0,” said Deau.
Future machine operators and technicians will put on virtual reality glasses to watch introductions in 3D, he said.
Next, Deau explained the reality part. Sidel offers Intelli-adjust, which autonomously controls the performance of the system and makes adjustments. According to Deau, Intelli-adjust offers many functions, such as recognizing and calculating the bottle shape, optimizing, analyzing the wall thickness and adapting the furnace.
The information enables the machine to “coach the operator,” he said.
Deau also presented Sidel’s new laser oven for heating PET preforms. The laser only heats the PET, not the ambient air.
Another spokesman for the blow molding conference, Achim Trübner from Kautex, held a 101 discussion on the subject of Industry 4.0, a term that was coined in Germany in 2011 in order to bring the totally networked concept into industry. He said the American term “Internet of Things” has been around for a while, but refers to the linking of personal objects such as cell phone apps and things like remote access to the house heating or closing the windows when it rains.
The changes were significant for machines. While the computing power used to be in the machine control, he said: “The new trend is to distribute the intelligence.”
At Kautex, Trübner is team leader for software development. “Customer needs will move closer to light-out manufacturing,” he said.
“Data is the blood of Industry 4.0. Without data, you can’t make decisions with algorithms. Without data, there is no way to view or track better performance, ”said Trübner.
He said that industry-wide standards must be established before the plastics processing industry can achieve true Industry 4.0.
But companies don’t have to wait for this process, said Trübner. Processors have to start collecting the data so that later experts – he called them “data scientists” – can look for patterns in the information.
He said that machine manufacturers are also moving forward and offering functions such as remote services, machine simulation and data acquisition. At K 2016, the Bonn-based company Kautex presented the IntelliGate integration system for its KBB blow molding machines, which connects all downstream devices to the blow molding machine via standard plug-and-play connections and sets them up automatically.