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The digital factory

Articles

Oliver Schäfer, Technical Information, ARBURG

The topic of Industry 4.0 is gaining greater attention and already has a massive impact on the entire plastic sector. The use of the latest, highly flexible production technology and its integration with information technology are extremely important. But what does Industry 4.0 mean in concrete terms and what are its benefits?
The term Industry 4.0 stands for the fourth industrial revolution, which will be driven by new information and communication technology, such as Internet clouds, standardised interfaces and mobile devices. The objective is the digital factory (smart factory) in which “intelligent” products (smart products) communicate with machines and employees: When, where and how was an item produced? What is the next processing step? In future, plastic parts will provide the answer and will thus be able to “independently” find their way through production.

Efficient production of single-unit batches
This opens up completely new horizons for the organization and control of the entire added value chain.
The potential of Industry 4.0 is particularly evident when you consider the changing market requirements in plastic processing: efficient production, increasingly complex products and ever-smaller batch sizes. In a nutshell: How can single-unit batches be produced cost efficiently? The recipe for success in this case is integrated production with flexibly interacting processes that have the capacity to organise and optimise themselves. Additive manufacturing is another important factor in the production of personalised products. It makes individualised customer requirements significantly more efficient, so that they can ultimately be implemented cost effectively.
Already strongly in evidence, flexibility looks set to gain greater dynamism. At the same time, production efficiency will increase – both due to greater productivity and to the best possible utilisation of resources.

Products optimise processes
As soon as products have direct access to high data, they can ‘make decisions’ for themselves. This results in shorter response times without loss of information. However, smart products can do more than simply enhance operational processes they can also enhance service activities. Each part is uniquely identifiable and traceable. This makes, for example, spare parts orders simpler and more reliable.
But how does the theory work in practice? The first thing you should know is: Industry 4.0 is not a finished solution.

Towards Industry 4.0 through modular principle
Industry 4.0 is much rather an individual solution that only comes into being through the interaction of various components and systems. The modules of a digital factory include:

  • Flexible production technology which e.g. simplifies set-up, integrates process steps with automation or combines conventional processes with industrial additive manufacturing.
  • Central process management which integrates the complete automation and peripheral equipment of a production cell.
  • Computer-assisted production organisation which comprehensively networks machines, order information and process data with one another.
  • Efficient logistics solution, which e.g. clearly labels products or provides information everywhere online via handheld devices and independently organises in-house transport.

ARBURG recognised the changes in market requirements and realised the potential of Industry 4.0 at an early stage, developing and extending the relevant range of products and services to meet the new challenges.

ARBURG assumes a pioneering role
Automated ALLROUNDER injection moulding machines and turnkey systems, the freeformer for industrial additive manufacturing, the central SELOGICA control system and IT solutions such as the ARBURG ALS host computer system are available to customers as the building blocks for networked production.
Furthermore, it all comes from a single source. As an exclusive partner in the “Additive Manufacturing Plaza” special exhibition at the Hannover Messe 2015, ARBURG demonstrated how the digital factory of tomorrow can work, using the example of a rocker-type light switch.

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