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Machine connectivity promises myriad benefits

Issue: May 2018

For injection molders, Industry 4.0 will have as much impact on business as trends such as globalization and worker shortages, machinery suppliers exhibiting at NPE2018 say.

Machines that are part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can help molders improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by reducing downtime and bad parts, and speeding production.

This new technology represents a major step in sophistication for injection molding machines and work cells. Machinery buyers now have new choices to consider. Here’s a look at some of the Industry 4.0 technology that suppliers of injection molding machinery will be touting at the show, held May 7-11 in Orlando, Fla.


Wittmann Battenfeld manufactures injection molding machines, robots and auxiliary equipment, which places the company in a unique position to develop connectivity among equipment categories. “We’ve been working on this connectivity for 10 years,” said President David Preusse.

The Wittmann 4.0 router serves as the main hub for all equipment in a manufacturing cell./ Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.

The central element of Wittmann Battenfeld’s Industry 4.0 effort, called Wittmann 4.0, is a patented router that serves as the main hub for all equipment. It provides a safe connection between the primary and peripheral equipment and can authenticate devices plugged into the network.

“The Wittmann 4.0 router contributes substantially to data security throughout the entire system. Only appliances which identify themselves unambiguously to the router by means of a security certificate are granted access to the production cell,” Preusse said. “The router is integrated in the injection molding machine and linked with the connected peripherals as well as the customer’s network.”

Wittmann Battenfeld’s B8 machine control connects its robots and peripherals via its Windows-based user interface. The combination of the machine controller and the router enhances communication and connectivity between the different devices. In this way, “the entire production process becomes optimally coordinated as well as transparent,” Preusse said.

Wittmann Battenfeld’s NPE booth, W3742, will showcase its Wittmann 4.0 technology on six injection molding machine work cells, each with integrated robots, automation, material handling and auxiliary equipment. Several new products from the company being introduced at the show — including an injection press, robot, temperature-control unit, granulator and dryer, will be shown. In addition to the six completely integrated work cells, there will be an interactive Wittmann 4.0 demonstration allowing visitors to experience the technology firsthand.


Bruce Catoen, CTO at Milacron, said Industry 4.0 addresses many of the challenges facing plastic parts manufacturers. As parts become more sophisticated and more difficult to mold, Industry 4.0 provides a way to manage complex machinery, equipment and data. It allows users to spot trends and prevent problems.

Milacron’s customers are looking for ways to improve OEE.

“A 1 percent improvement to OEE is significant to a molder. We believe IIoT-connected devices connected to a solid analytics platform will help our customers manage to a higher OEE,” Catoen said. Users of Milacron equipment with Industry 4.0 capabilities have seen a 5 percent to 10 percent improvement in their OEE in a matter of a year.

Milacron is integrating its Industry 4.0 platform into all of its brands of auxiliary and automation equipment, so that elements of a manufacturing cell — including the press, robots, conveyors, chillers, hot runners and smart molds — can be connected digitally.

Milacron says that all machines that it manufactures in the U.S. are IIoT-optimized. However, customers interested in IIoT need not jump into it all at once. Catoen said moving from one step to the next can be a more successful approach.

Milacron cites four major steps it has taken on its path to IIoT integration. The first is connectivity. “We are designing all of our equipment to be easily connectable to standard protocols like Wi-Fi and Ethernet,” Catoen said.

Second is a common communications protocol. Milacron has adopted the OPC-UA protocol to allow its equipment to communicate with that of other manufacturers and with manufacturing execution systems (MES).

Third is sensors. Milacron adds sensors to its machinery to capture important data for analytics and feedback.

Lastly, Milacron is working on both edge and cloud computing to build intelligence so that machines can learn, and the overall intelligence of the system improves through the power of many connected machines, Catoen said.

At the show, Milacron will be in Booth W2703.


At NPE, Japan Steel Works (JSW) will show its enhanced Syscom 5000i controller, which has an energy monitor and provides preventive maintenance reminders and instructions, statistical process control (SPC), robot integration, and its Net 100 monitoring and control software that can track shot data, machine uptime, and other essential SPC information remotely. Additionally, the controller has customizable inputs and outputs that can be used to integrate it with auxiliary equipment.

“Data tracking is a desirable trait for interconnectivity. Everyone likes energy efficiency and predictive maintenance reminders. But tracking shot-to-shot data and being able to refer to it later is the area medical, automotive and aerospace take interest in,” said Justin Treadwell, assistant sales manager, Western region for JSW America.

“Anything that introduces machine intelligence to any area of your process is moving down the path of Industry 4.0. That could be as little as an automated message to instruct staff to perform a task, or as complex as automating a mold change and conveyance transfer once a run is completed,” Treadwell said.

JSW is in Booth W2111.


KraussMaffei is widely adopting Industry 4.0 connectivity in the design and operation of its injection molding machines, said Paul Caprio, president, Krauss-Maffei Corp. For example, appropriate interfaces such as Euromap 63 for communication between injection molding machines and MES are available in each model. “Shortly after the official release of Euromap 77, the successor of Euromap 63, KraussMaffei will offer it for new injection molding machines and retrofits,” Caprio said.

KraussMaffei’s Industry 4.0 products are promoted under the label Plastics 4.0.

Developments include the KraussMaffei APC plus (Adaptive Process Control) intelligent machine function, which can be used to compensate for fluctuations in the same shot because of changing conditions in the production environment. Another product is DataXplorer, a process-monitoring device that gives users easy access to the data produced by their molding machines, such as injection pressure, injection velocity and screw position. Depending on the machine’s equipment, it displays up to 500 high-resolution signals, creates graphical representations of the signals, and makes them available for evaluation, Caprio said.

KraussMaffei is exhibiting at Booth W403.


Paul Kapeller, Engel product manager

At Booth W3503, Engel will present its inject 4.0 products for the first time in the U.S. at NPE2018, said Paul Kapeller, product manager, digital solutions. They include Engel’s iQ flow control software and e-connect customer portal.

IQ flow control connects temperature-control units with the injection molding machine using OPC-UA. Other inject 4.0 products include Engel’s iQ weight control, which is used to maintain consistent injected melt volume throughout the injection molding process, and iQ clamp control, which monitors mold breathing to calculate and automatically adjust the clamping force.

“Engel began to focus on networking and digitalization of production processes very early on, where even small isolated solutions could provide huge benefits and many solutions can be added to an existing machine or production cell easily. We are seeing a broader picture and it is much more than connectivity and networking,” Kapeller said.

Engel said that inject 4.0 is based upon three pillars: smart machines that boost quality with self-adapting systems; smart production to ensure productivity thanks to horizontal and vertical data integration; and smart services that improve machine availability through remote maintenance tools. These include its e-connect.24 online support and remote maintenance link and e-connect.monitor system for predictive maintenance.


In Booth W143 Absolute Haitian will be demonstrating an open-source robot integrated for virtual network computing (VNC) running on its new JE 6500 press.

“This level of integration was typically only available on machines where the [robot] control was integrated into the molding machine. This type of solution permits for full cell functionality without the high performance/price point normally offering these types of integrated solutions,” said Mike Ortolano, a company owner. VNC opens the control architecture to allow integration of equipment.

Mikell Knights, senior staff reporter



Absolute Haitian,
Parma, Ohio, 216-452-1000, 

Engel Machinery Inc.,

York, Pa., 717-764-6818,

JSW Plastics Machinery Inc.,

Corona, Calif., 951-898-0934,

Krauss-Maffei Corp.,
Florence, Ky., 859-283-0200


Milacron LLC,

Batavia, Ohio, 513-536-2000,

Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.,

Torrington, Conn., 860-496-9603,