German specialty chemical company Lanxess AG is looking to drastically cut product development times for high performance plastics with the use of artificial intelligence.
The company has entered into close collaboration with U.S.-based AI company Citrine Informatics, which specializes in data-driven materials development, Lanxess announced May 8.
The two companies have already launched a pilot project to gauge the potential of AI for plastics production and expect to further optimize Lanxess' glass fiber reinforcement in high-performance plastics.
A key area that will be studied jointly by the two companies is glass fiber sizing, which is a complex and time-consuming process.
Glass fibers that are mixed with plastics to increase their mechanical performance are surrounded with a sizing. This helps the glass fibers to bond more strongly with the plastic matrix, ultimately ensuring the properties required of high-performance plastics.
In traditional product development, the composition of glass fiber and the required variables for manufacturing high-performance plastics undergo extensive testing, with "hard-to-predict" results.
In the new partnership, Lanxess will be supplying "thousands" measurement results from previous formulations, raw material information and a host of additional data for the development of AI algorithms.
Those algorithms calculate forecast models for improved test configurations and parameters, enhance those models, and finally propose an optimum formulation.
"We expect AI to cut the development time for optimized formulations by more than half," explained Axel Tuchlenski, head of global product and application development at Lanxess high performance materials business unit.
"This will enable us to not only offer our customers even better tailor-made products, but also reduce time to market," the company official added.
For Jörg Hellwig, Lanxess chief digital officer, the pilot project for the development of high-performance plastics is just the beginning for AI at Lanxess.
"Artificial Intelligence is a vital technology for creating innovation from the myriad data within the group," Hellwig added.
Lanxess launched its digitalization initiative in 2017, establishing a dedicated team headed by Hellwig.
The initiative's core action areas are to develop digital business models, introduce new technologies throughout the value chain, develop and utilize big data, and foster digital expertise among employees.