Talking Points: K show virtually abuzz with new tech, innovations
True to form, the K show in Düsseldorf was the site of incredible might and energy during its eight-day run. Plastics Machinery Magazine will be bringing you coverage during the next several months. We’ll be showcasing lots of new technologies, including innovations in injection molding; pipe, profile and tubing extrusion; and, in this issue, recycling. Companies displayed their best at the industry’s innovation showcase, pulling out all the stops. Following are the trends I observed as I walked the halls and took in the sights.
During injection molding plant visits during the past few years, I’ve noticed increasing pressure on manufacturers to be able to perform just-in-time production, and to work with smaller lots. At K, this trend emerged in two other key areas: film production and thermoforming. The demands on machinery manufacturers are ever-present: to design and manufacture machinery and equipment that is flexible, safe and durable.
“If you are not flexible enough to deliver in time, to deliver small lots, you are not going to be in business,” observed Karlheinz Weinmann, corporate communications, Brückner Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG.
Companies must become more sophisticated with mold and die changes, as well; some companies undergo several mold changes per shift. Stäubli found a way to illustrate this with a fully automated injection molding cell that drew a lot of attention. The cell preheated the injection mold; this preparation was being done even as the injection molding machine was in production on another part. The media, power and signal connections were switched on with a single control on a Stäubli multicoupling system. Integrated sensors detected the condition of the mold so that any issues could be addressed early in the process. When the mold reached its required temperature, it was transferred on a die cart to the machine. The machine and the die cart were synced so that they automatically coordinated their statuses at each step. Using a tool centering unit, the system made sure that the mold’s position was correct before magnetically clamping it into the machine.
“Being able to move the mold as fast as possible is a competitive advantage,” said one Stäubli official.
At least three companies that I visited had virtual reality booths that allowed attendees to experience entering a factory, walking up to the equipment and visiting different parts of the plant. Push a button and you are at the extruder. Push the button again and you are downstream. If you want to stand on the mezzanine to get an overview of the plant, that too is an option. At Parkinson Technologies Inc.’s booth, visitors could be transported to a film extrusion plant. Parkinson’s range of products made up the virtual factory, including its winders, Dusenbery converting systems and orientation machines from subsidiary Marshall & Williams Plastics.
The technology also can be adapted for augmented reality demonstrations. This is a way to view the real world but with one aspect of it simulated so that an operations manager, for example, can peel away layers of a piece of equipment or machinery.
“Virtual reality is a way to train people,” said Peter Termyn, president and CEO of Parkinson. “It is a whole new element for safety and training. You put someone in a virtual world, and an experience is really worth 1,000 words.”
This is game-changing for troubleshooting and factory maintenance. It’s also game-changing for a processor’s ability to select equipment before purchasing.
Coperion’s virtual reality setup showcased compounding extruders, pelletizers for polyolefin production, bulk materials-handling systems and related systems.
Are Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) just overhyped marketing buzzwords?
I posed this question on LinkedIn just after I returned from Germany. Going into K, PMM knew these subjects would be an important focus, but how do we translate them into tangible terms for machinery and equipment?
One machinery industry maven put it this way: “We must not forget that we are machinery makers, not computer companies. We need to focus on the equipment first.”
Still one other said, “We cannot sell trends. We can only sell products.”
Another industry source observed that IoT and Industry 4.0 are not just buzzwords and that many machinery manufacturers are demonstrating functionality, as well as energy measurement and management.
The KEB stand, for example, demonstrated remote machine connections to help with startups and troubleshooting. Security is another key and will only grow in importance. Meanwhile, Coperion and Coperion K -Tron showed detailed products — remote maintenance and product tracking, control systems and control technology.
How do Industry 4.0 or the IoT fit into your operation? We would love to hear your insights at email@example.com
Angie DeRosa, managing editor