Industry 4.0 and the Plastic Industry

“Industry 4.0” was everywhere at NPE and continues to a buzzword in all manufacturing markets. Here is our brief take on this with specific information on what the Plastics Industry is doing in this area.

What is “Industry 4.0”? Simply put…value creation based on the gradual integration of traditional manufacturing with the increasingly technological world. Machine to machine communication and connected sensor deployments (Internet of Things) help manufactures provide increased automation, improved communication and monitoring along with self-diagnosis.

For the equipment that we provide Industry 4.0 will likely to lead to more machine to machine communication needs along with passing more data along to be analyzed by some greater system to make a “smart factory”.

What have we done and what are we doing? Our equipment has machine to machine communication capability. SPI, Modbus RTU and Modbus TCP communication protocols are common to almost all our equipment and more information is available to be transmitted. For example, digital pressure sensing has replaced analog gauges on chillers so now pressure information is analyzed by our controls and can also be transmitted for analysis by some greater system. Our future controls will continue to be more capable in this area.

The European plastics industry has taken an aggressive step in the machine to machine communication area. The VDMA, their equivalent of our Plastics Industry Association (previously known as SPI), recognized the need for a standard machine to machine communication protocol that is more capable than SPI or other previous European protocols and they have embarked on producing standards. They have settled on a communication protocol called OPC UA and are far along in the development of the architecture for several products including temperature control devices. The standard for temperature control devices, Euromap 82.1 was released in October of 2018.

While US suppliers and the Plastics Industry Association have been lagging there is momentum building to adopt the European protocol, OPC UA, and to work in harmony with them to produce a common interface. The goal, like SPI communication, is to have one common communication platform so that any brand chiller or temperature control unit can communicate with any brand molding machine or other data collection system.

As always, Advantage has anticipated the need for this capability in our products. Both the new MG and Temptender families will support this technology. We are evaluating the timing to implement this and will keep you advised of our progress.

There is far more to come on this subject as it develops.

Jon Gunderson