Special Report: Machinery suppliers help recycling operations get smart
If Industry 4.0 is about making machinery operate more efficiently, recycling fits the philosophy perfectly. After all, recycling at its core is about using resources more efficiently.
The popularity of Industry 4.0 for plastics recycling operations is growing steadily, and machinery and equipment suppliers will be touting myriad smart factory features at NPE2018. Industry 4.0 can mean different things to different companies, but typically involves some combination of cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and communication between different pieces of equipment.
Here’s what some suppliers say attendees should look for at the show.
“Industry 4.0 is important for the optimization of the production process,” said Maurizio Burini, export sales manager for North America and Europe for Gamma Meccanica SpA, Bibbiano, Italy, which will have an NPE display at Booth W7947. “This is a tool that helps you to understand how to optimize the processes, how production costs are distributed, in what way the waste can be reduced. It is also useful to manage and to track the product and therefore to improve quality.”
Customers should look for recycling equipment that allows them to store and analyze production data, which can be used to optimize the process and provide traceability for troubleshooting.
Traceability “can be useful in terms of better quality and warranty for the customer,” Burini said. “For example, in case of claims relative to one specific batch, it is possible to find out how it was produced and who worked on it.”
The company’s new GM 105 Compac recycling system is designed to process film, fibers and fabrics, and comprises a feeder equipped with a cutter/compactor, an extruder, screen changer and pelletizer.
It is equipped with an in-line weighing system to track how much material is being processed, which allows users to determine equipment efficiency in real time. The recycling line is able to provide feedback on energy consumption, viscosity, color quality and density. The company will upgrade software and install tools for in-line monitoring at the customer’s request.
“We see Industry 4.0 as a part of bigger process like business sustainability and digital transformation, so it will be more and more developed and integrated,” Burini said.
Gamma Meccanica’s sales agent in the U.S. is Innovative Recycling Solutions.
NEXT GENERATIOIN RECYCLING
“NPE attendees should take a look at which recycling equipment providers started to implement modern communication technologies to their equipment,” said Patrick Steinwendner, head of product management and marketing for Next Generation Recycling (NGR). “Attendees should focus on benefits conveyed by these new technologies. What does it mean to the productivity of their business, today and in the future, when these technologies get further developed?”
He said a cloud-based connection between the equipment and the equipment supplier can yield significant benefits, such as continuous improvement of the output rate and increased machine availability because of the ability to predict and plan for downtime. The quality of the end product can be optimized by continuously comparing production parameters against actual results.
At Booth W7263 at NPE, NGR is showcasing its P:React processing system with its new NGR Connect software application. Though P:React was introduced at NPE2015, NGR will display a complete P:React system for the first time in the U.S. at the show. P:React uses liquid-state polycondensation to decontaminate post-industrial or post-consumer PET. The system can be used directly upstream of a manufacturing line for producing sheet, fiber or other products.
NGR Connect demonstrates NGR’s capability to combine modern communication and information technologies with traditional machinery. The software application records relevant operating data from a P:React system, or any NGR machine, and makes it available on devices such as tablets and smartphones. Recipe management directly on the machine allows the classification of PET input material and links to P:React production data. This allows for real-time process tracking and continuous optimization.
The machine comes with a package of built-in sensors, and recorded data is collected in the cloud, Steinwendner said. As an option, NGR can review the data and provide feedback. NGR also offers an additional tool, NGR Analytics, which can compare data from machines in different locations.
EREMA NORTH AMERICA
“Industry 4.0 applications are a vehicle for plastics recycling to contribute to the intended extent to implement the circular economy — namely to deliver consistent recyclate quality in the required quantities,” said Martin Baumann, VP of sales for Erema North America, which will exhibit at Booth W1249. “We see a significant increase in inquiries regarding the production of quality pellets that can be used for quality products again.”
Erema recently developed its re360 Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software, which collates production data from potentially dozens of plants into one computer. “This makes the whole process more transparent and also gives you the chance to learn from this data and to use it for optimization,” Baumann said.
In-line quality data such as color and melt-volume flow rate (MVR) can be measured and displayed continuously. That data can help identify production patterns and optimize the entire process chain, Baumann said.
Allan Gerlat, correspondent
Erema North America Inc.,
Ipswich, Mass., 617-548-4927,
Innovative Recycling Solutions LLC,
Greer, S.C., 864-675-0775,
Next Generation Recycling Machines Inc.,
Norcross, Ga., 678-720-9861,