Oak Brook, Ill. — Industry 4.0 came to the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Blow Molding Conference in Oak Brook.
Speakers from two machinery manufacturers — 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 mold a bottle — computing its own recipe and figuring out bottle molding parameters, even handling the changeover to a new mold?
Welcome to Sidel Group's Agility 4.0 program.
Thierry Deau, project manager of Agility 4.0, described an “intelligent blow molder.” Some of it is a dream of the future, and some of it is already reality at the France-based machinery maker.
The smart blow molder could control the entire process, including automation. “The final evolution is digitization to get to Industry 4.0,” Deau said.
Future machine operators and technicians will strap on virtual reality glasses to follow introductions in 3D, he said.
Next, Deau explained the reality part. Sidel offers Intelli-adjust, which autonomously controls the system's performance and makes adjustments. Deau said Intelli-adjust has many features, such as detection and calculation of the shape of bottle, optimization, analyzing wall thickness and adjusting the oven.
The information lets the machine “coach the operator,” he said.
Deau also outlined Sidel's new laser oven for heating PET preforms. The laser heats only the PET, not the surrounding air.
Another blow molding conference speaker, Achim Trübner of Kautex, gave a 101 discussion of Industry 4.0, which he said was a term coined in Germany in 2011 to bring the totally connected concept to the industrial sector. He said the American term “internet of things” has been around longer but refers to linking personal objects such as mobile phone apps and things like remote access to home heating or closing the windows in case it rains.
For machinery, the changes have been significant. While formerly the computing power was locked into the machine controller, he said, “The new trend is to distribute the intelligence.”
At Kautex, Trübner is team leader of software development. “Customer needs will get closer to lights-out manufacturing,” he said.
“Data is the blood of Industry 4.0. Without data, you cannot create decisions with algorithms. Without data, you have no way to indicate better performance or track it,” Trübner said.
He said industrywide standards need to be established before the plastics processing sector can reach true Industry 4.0.
But, Trübner said, companies don't have to wait for that process to happen. Processors need to start collecting the data, so that later, experts — he called them “data scientists” — can look for patterns in the information.
He said machinery manufacturers also are moving forward, offering features like remote services, machine simulation and data acquisition. At K 2016, the Bonn, Germany-based Kautex introduced the IntelliGate integration system for its KBB blow molding machines, which links and automatically sets up all downstream equipment with the blow molder using standard plug-and-play connections.