KOTTINGBRUNN, AUSTRIA — At any event named MacroPower Days, the big-tonnage injection molding machines are going to take center stage. But interconnectivity was the real focus of the event hosted by Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH in Kottingbrunn April 22-23.
The company had a display explaining Wittmann 4.0, the machinery maker's version of Europe's Industry 4.0 — where all machinery, production and quality information is linked seamlessly together, blending a huge amount of data so that the equipment can self-adjust.
The Vienna-based machinery manufacturer will make Wittmann 4.0 available in October.
General Manager Michael Wittmann said the manufacturing sector does not yet have a standard interface linking computer systems, called a protocol, to make a true Industry 4.0 work across all industries. But Wittmann Battenfeld has spent years developing its own interface — since the company makes injection molding machines, robots and a wide range of auxiliary equipment. That made it easier to integrate the company's equipment.
“We're not waiting for standardization,” Wittmann said.
Under Wittmann 4.0, the injection molding machine controller will act as the network's center. The press controller will automatically mirror the screens of the type of auxiliary equipment being viewed. “It's an automatic synchronization of each device,” he said.
That was a major software innovation, according to Johannes Rella, Wittmann Battenfeld's head of software engineering.
“All these devices have to be equipped with the correct parameter sets. When you change a tool, these parameters have to be changed also,” Rella said. That will greatly reduce mold changeover time, he added.
Industry 4.0 represents the fourth industrial revolution — an age of information technology — said Friedrich Bleicher, head of the Institute of Production Engineering and Laser Technology at the Technical University of Vienna.
According to Bleicher, mechanization heralded the first industrial revolution in the 1700s, bringing innovations such as the steam engine.
The mass production of Industry 2.0 followed beginning in the 1800s, with textile mills, the railroads and the steel industry.
Industry 3.0 began in the 1950s and continues today, through automation, electronics and controls.
Bleicher said Industry 4.0 — the information technology age — started around 1990.
What's coming next: Artificial intelligence, through driverless cars, and micro-medical sensors that measure blood pressure and other medical conditions.
Bleicher's university is studying the use of “virtual” factory layouts on a computer screen, using simulation to optimize the final plant design for maximum efficiency.
Another speaker at MacroPower Days, Volker Altstädt, talked about innovations in fiber-reinforced foamed sheet, also called organosheet. Altstädt is managing director of Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH, as well as a professor in the polymer engineering department at the University of Bayreuth, in that German city.
Neue Materialien, which was founded in 2000, does technology transfer projects with the university.
The sheets are made from a sandwich construction of a foam core, often of polypropylene, between two skin layers of fiber-reinforced fabric. The preheated sheets can be thermoformed or used for injection molded structural components such as automotive components that provide crash protection at a light weight.