RWTH Aachen University, Head of Institute for Plastics Processing (IKV)
The rapid and consequent utilization of the potential of digitalization for the industry - Internet of things, services and people - will be of utmost importance for the competitive ability and the survival of corporations in the decades to come. All sectors of the organization will be affected – ranging from research and development, through production to logistics, and administration. Actually, it is expected that entire business models have to face fundamental changes. An examination of this complex subject is mandatory, hence, for every company.
Industry 4.0 or Cyber Physical Systems are artificial terms meaning basically the same: physical and virtual systems are linked to each other to obtain more efficient and sustainable processes in corporate production and all related sectors.
Using the injection moulding process as an example, the importance of the subject for the plastics industry may be shown: it is the target to optimize process parameters already during the simulation phase and to transfer results to the injection-moulding machine...
This means gaining real-time data from the machinery, tools, processes and services and make them usable for simulation, monitoring and quality processes. In practise: forward displacement of the start-up phase of the production process and the tool operation into the computer to facilitate variational calculus for a stable and robust manufacturing process right from the beginning. By doing so expensive tool modification e.g. can be reduced or even completely avoided. Required know-how and information from other sites or from external partners can be provided in real time by using internet-based services.
Implementation status in the plastic industry The advancement in realization of process digitalization is varying in throughout the plastic industry. Suppliers of injection moulding machinery are frontrunners together with technological institutes as is the case with big companies with in-house plastics processing. Some raw material suppliers and especially small plastic processing companies are still struggling to define their optimal approach in dealing with chances and risks of digitalization. Open questions e.g. about interfaces and data security are obstructing the fast realization of the huge potential given.