Industry 4.0 has the potential to revolutionise manufacturing industry. Compounding systems and equipment suppliers are already starting to implement some of its components, writes Jennifer Markarian.
Industry 4.0—the fourth industrial revolution—promises to change manufacturing, just as the previous industrial revolutions before it. The Industry 4.0 vision is one of communication of data across individual items of plant equipment using the industrial internet of things (IIoT) concept, allowing machines to learn and improving themselves. Collecting more data from sensors mounted on individual machines and using this data to improve processes and products is a first step towards operating under this new paradigm. Adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, such as networking of machines and the use of predictive maintenance, is further ahead in injection moulding than in the compounding segment. However, interest from compounders and resin producers is growing and projects to implement new tools in the compounding area are certainly in development. Data, when translated into knowledge, is power and plastics processors can use Industry 4.0 tools to harness this power to improve process capabilities and make manufacturing more efficient. “In the compounding sector, companies have recognised many opportunities to benefit from the huge amount of accessible production data,” says Dr Christian Hopmann, an Industry 4.0 authority at the Institute of Plastics Processing (IKV) in Industry and the Skilled Crafts at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. He cites the simple example of using sensors to measure the functionality of heating elements. “If one element is down, the rest of the system compensates this for as long as it takes an operator to restore the heating element, which reduces downtime and increases productivity,” he explains.
Italy’s Piovan is among the leaders in applying Industry 4.0 principles in plastics manufacturing. Its latest Quantum series of gravimetric batch blenders supports connection into the company’s Winfactory 4.0 OPC-UA compliant smart factory supervision software or its latest materials handling control and monitoring system, FACS 4.0. Both solutions are designed to help plastics processors “transition from a traditional factory setup to one in which computers and automation provide comprehensive control and monitoring”, the company says. Winfactory 4.0 is a fully flexible system based on OPC-UA architecture. It is open, so equipment from any manufacturer can be connected with no need for any “translation” devices, and data exchange is immediate. FACS 4.0, meanwhile, is a two-wire system that works on a Windows platform to provide full control and monitoring of a Piovan material handling system, presenting data on a range of handheld devices.
Read the complete article published on Compounding World.