Friedrichshafen, Germany — The day could be coming when plastics processors can ask Alexa if it's going to rain before leaving home and then at work direct her to put a Dr. Boy GmbH & Co. KG injection molding machine into setup mode.
Alexa would then tell the machine to set up or go into manual, automatic, semiautomatic or stop modes.
Voice control could be an advantage for machine operators now using touchscreen controls if they are prone to getting particulate or oil on their hands, according to Christian Storz, Boy export manager.
Maybe this feature isn't necessary, Storz added, but Boy is using it to discuss the relevance of artificial intelligence in the future, Storz said at an Ask Alexa demonstration.
"How important is AI to injection molding machinery and how important is it to have a voice control," Storz asked. "Does it make sense or not? That is what we want to discuss."
Boy "injectioneers," as the company calls them, have been studying the language control of industrial machines and tested the assistance system for the plastics industry at Fakuma 2021 in Friedrichshafen.
Like Amazon's Alexa, the injection molding machine can perform certain basic commands via voice input, according to Thomas Kühr, head of electronic design for the builder of injection molding machines with clamping forces up to 125 tons.
"Presently it is not intended to take this into series production in the short term," Kühr said in an email. "We would like to enter into dialogue in order to find out which assistance systems are desired and where the customers see the greatest benefit."
Digitalization and automation of presses were on display at Fakuma, which is also the trade fair premiere of a new feature for the 3-year-old Boy 125 E, a machine with a clamping force of 125 tons and a footprint of 5.22 square meters.
The press produced polypropylene stacking boxes in 18.5 seconds with the molded products taken by the gripper of a robotic Boy LR 5 handling unit.
A new feature of the press is an electromechanically operated ejector that is available as an option for its larger Boy 50 to Boy 125 injection molding machines. The ejector features an operating mode that is independent of the main drive of the press, adjustable speed profiles (up to 500 millimeters per second) with high accuracy and dynamics and exact track positioning of the ejector with synchronization of the ejector and handling movement.
Kühr said there are several benefits to having an operating mode independent of the main drive of the injection molding machine.
"Shorter cycle time and parallel machine movements, such as the mold opening and simultaneous ejector movement, are possible," he said.
In other Boy demonstrations, a hybrid Boy 80 E combined with a Boy 2C S showed automated production of wine spouts. An LR5 robot removed the parts, which were then taken to an ultrasonic welding system so a decanting insert could be shrink-wrapped.
In another demonstration, a Boy 35 E produced protective dental caps from liquid silicone rubber in a four-cavity mold. An LR5 robot removed the caps and put them on a conveyor belt.
A similar demonstration showed the side parts of a breathing mask being removed from the mold by a picker and placed on a conveyor belt. This automation was likely the most compact production cell at Fakuma 2021, according to Boy Managing Partner Alfred Schiffer.
In addition, Boy introduced a wireless local area network stick to make its network compatible without complex installations, demonstrated cooling water distribution with electronic flow quantity recording for the first time and showed a software molding assistant.
The introduction of the WLAN stick further digitalizes factories, Kühr said. Operators of presses with the Procan Alpha 4-brand control can communicate wirelessly with the machine, use remote monitoring, connect the Boy press to the internet by hotspotting with a smartphone via WLAN and get immediate assistance by remote control.
For quick help, the user can allow access to the machine control system for remote maintenance via virtual network computing and Boy's repeater server at its headquarters in Neustadt-Fernthal, Germany.
"By activating the repeater function, remote maintenance can be carried out via the Boy server," Kühr said.
In another digital advancement, Boy software called "Molding Assist" identifies injection molding faults and suggests solutions. The solutions are displayed from corresponding setting pages of the Procan ALPHA 4 control for easy troubleshooting. The intelligent software system then adopts the successful strategy and automatically adapts future solution proposals.
"The Boy Molding Assist brings expert knowledge directly to the injection molding machine," Kühr said. "The shortage of skilled workers with expert knowledge reinforced Boy's decision to develop an intelligent, learning assistant system. This uses an edge device to access expert knowledge directly on the injection molding machine screen."
The device can extend the functionality of the injection molding machine's screen, he added, as well as access to the Boy homepage and Boy's own apps, such as material databases, is possible.
As for the electronic recording for cooling water flow, Boy plans to make that standard in all presses with Procan Alpha 4. Fakuma visitors familiarized themselves with the function and tested it at a Boy press on display.
The flow quantity set is digitally recorded and shown on the machine display. Target quantities and tolerances can be set, displayed and monitored.
"A target range for the flow rate can be defined in the control," Kühr said. "If deviations occur and the measured value is not within the target range, the control system sends a warning to the operator. The recorded values can be stored in the protocol per shot/cycle."
A temperature display with process data monitoring is available as an option.
Founded in 1968, Boy is a privately held builder of injection molding machines with clamping forces up to 125 tons. The company says it has delivered nearly 50,000 injection molding machines worldwide.