Rising energy and raw material prices make plastics processing companies face new challenges. "Reducing the CO2 footprint even faster gives companies leeway. Competitiveness and resilience are boosted," as Dr. Gerhard Dimmler, CTO of the ENGEL Group, emphasized in advance to K 2022. "ENGEL is the role model when it comes to solutions that save CO2 in injection molding. And that is what we are demonstrating in Düsseldorf this October."
Boosting competitiveness and resilience with ENGEL
"ENGEL offers a wide spectrum of proven technologies and solutions that contribute towards reducing the use of energy and raw materials. The focus now is on making even more use of these to substantially improve the CO2 footprint and the cost structure at the same time," said Dimmler.
From the design, mold sampling and production, to maintenance and service, ENGEL supports its customers throughout the product life cycle and beyond. After all, reducing a company's CO2 footprint is not a purely technical challenge. It requires close cooperation along the entire value chain, which ENGEL and other market players are actively engaged in.
Every participant in the value chain has a specific role. As an injection molding machine manufacturer and system solutions provider, ENGEL is responsible for three areas: the overall efficiency of the injection molding production cell, digitalization of the injection molding production processes, and processing technologies which support the circular economy.
Overall efficiency: It's a question of temperature control
Conserving resources and energy has always been embedded in ENGEL's corporate philosophy. From servo-hydraulic, through hybrid, to all-electric injection molding machines by ENGEL – they are some of the most efficient ones on the market in their size and performance classes.
"Many processors think that they have already achieved the maximum energy savings potential by using an all-electric injection molding machine. But a precisely tuned temperature control solution helps them do far more," as Dimmler explained.
Supplying and removing heat often consumes more energy than the movements of the injection molding machine in today's production operations. This is why ENGEL has focused intensively on mold temperature control for more than 10 years, offering temperature control solutions perfectly adjusted for the injection molding machines. With dynamic single-circuit closed-loop control and demand-driven control of the temperature control units, these systems solutions by ENGEL combine energy efficiency with constant temperatures and very high productivity. This makes it possible to reduce energy consumption comparable with the energy savings achieved a few years ago by switching to a state-of-the-art drive technology.
Digitalization for consistently high product quality
iQ flow control is the smart assistance system which ENGEL specifically developed to optimize the temperature control processes. The iQ product family includes nearly ten smart assistance systems and ENGEL will present another system at the K show 2022: iQ hold control. Smart assistance started 10 years ago with iQ weight control, which automatically identifies fluctuations in the raw material and ambient conditions, and automatically adjusts the quality-defining process parameters for each cycle.
The self-optimizing injection molding machine is an essential feature in digitalization of the injection molding processes. It is all about avoiding rejects and boosting energy efficiency.
A recent study conducted by Accenture on behalf of bitkom of companies in Germany predicts that digitalization could reduce the current CO2 emissions by up to 58%. At 23%, the manufacturing sector is responsible for a particularly large share.
Stretch, cover and hide — for a circular economy
With its comprehensive technology knowledge, ENGEL supports its customers in the processing of recycled material.
"The objective of recycling plastic waste is to consume less energy than you need to produce virgin material," Dimmler said. "If you do this, the use of recycled material has an immediate positive impact on the CO2 footprint."
ENGEL uses three keywords, stretch, cover and hide to describe the different approaches that allow the use of recycled material for a wider spectrum of applications. Stretching refers to mixing recycled material with virgin material. Plastics processing companies benefit from the great plasticizing and digitalization expertise of ENGEL.
"If you have the right screw, any injection molding machine can process up to and including 100% recycled material," said Dimmler.
Additionally, smart assistance systems ensure that high-quality parts can still be produced, even when facing major fluctuations in the raw material, which are typical of recycled plastic waste.
Covering means processing the recycled material with the use of IMD technology, such as ENGEL foilmelt or ENGEL clearmelt, along with a decorative foil or cover. And hiding means embedding recycled material in virgin material in a sandwich process, as enabled by the ENGEL skinmelt and coinjection technologies.
"Our goal is to replace the downcycling of products, which is still dominant today, with recycling or even upcycling," said Dimmler. "This is what drives our development work forward. ENGEL technologies make recycled material usable, even for sophisticated products."
Information transparency through networking
The upcycling target is also supported by close cooperation of companies along the value chain. From producing raw material, through processing to recycling and even further towards trade and the consumer, the market players are networking on horizontal platforms in order to exchange information and data. For example, the material, manufacturer and manufacturing process can be identified by a digital watermark on the packaging. The data is available to all participants and users of the horizontal platform. This enables more targeted sorting of plastic waste, resulting in single grade, high-quality recycling.
The R-Cycle initiative, which ENGEL joined in the spring of 2022, pursues precisely this goal. Thanks to digital product passports, R-Cycle has created the basis for a premium recycling process where information relevant to recycling is automatically documented as early as in the manufacture of the product.
"The precondition for closing material cycles is transparency of information across the entire value chain, an information cycle, so to speak," as Dimmler emphasized. "You can only ensure the desired part properties if you know what you are processing."
The circular economy is based on the interaction of all market players. For a seamless process chain, however, it is also important for each step in the overall process to be cost effective.
"Without economy there is no ecology,” Dimmler said. "This is the point where the circle closes to optimize energy consumption, CO2 footprint and the cost structure. The plastics industry needs to act quickly to utilize the opportunities that innovative technologies present."
Visit ENGEL at K 2022: hall 15, booth C58