Industry 4.0: mold sensor technology - the basis for networked injection molding production

Winterthur, December 2017 – Industry 4.0 is an omnipresent issue in every sector of industry. The Industry 4.0. vision has already emerged as a distinct reality in the injection molding sector. The focus is on consistent digitization – leading to enhanced product quality and increased cost-efficiency. Injection molders equipped with Kistler systems for process monitoring and control are ideally placed to meet the requirements for digital networking.

According to the definition given by Germany's Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA), Industry 4.0 is a three-pillar model: Smart Machines – the first pillar – refers to machines that can optimize themselves with the help of intelligent tools. Smart Production means networked production – even across multiple sites. Finally, Smart Services are intelligent services or business models that only become possible once machines or their components are networked.

Kistler already offers injection molders Industry 4.0 solutions for the first two pillars of this model. They open up wide-ranging possibilities for networking to improve product quality and optimize processes in injection molding production. In terms of Smart Machines, Kistler's ComoNeo process monitoring and control system is available; and as regards Smart Production, there is the related ComoDataCenter database component. Together, these two products provide an excellent foundation for users to meet increasing quality requirements by continuously monitoring, controlling and optimizing the injection molding process.

ComoNeo together with ComoNeoPREDICT enable for predictive optimization of the injection molding process.
ComoNeo is integrated directly in the machine – and with the new ComoNeoPREDICT system, it opens up possibilities for predictive optimization of the injection molding process based on a statistical model.

ComoNeo adds intelligence to injection molding machines

The ComoNeo process monitoring system tracks cavity pressure and uses it to assess the quality of the injection-molded part. Sensors integrated in the mold ensure that the process is monitored to provide greater transparency and more efficient control. Monitoring of cavity pressure has proven useful because this parameter has the highest degree of correlation with part quality. Bringing the data obtained together in a virtual production environment offers even greater potential: not only individual injection molding cycles but also the entire process sequence can be monitored and optimized.

Cavity pressure is monitored with the help of defined Evaluation Objects (or EOs). ComoNeo verifies whether the curves pass through the evaluation objects as predefined. If so, ComoNeo generates an 'OK' result; otherwise, the result is 'Not OK' (NOK). This allows sorting into good and bad parts. EOs can be set manually or automatically. Additional practical tools are also at the user's disposal: online quality prediction based on statistical test planning, and the Restart Assistant.

ComoDataCenter: the basis for Industry 4.0

Kistler offers its ComoDataCenter (CDC) for Smart Production (networked manufacturing). CoMo DataCenter links all the ComoNeo systems and CoMo Injection (predecessor) systems, combining process- and quality-related production data for both live and completed orders in one database. The CDC is therefore the central data storage location for all recorded process data. It enables plastics processors to detect process fluctuations quickly, and provides options for detailed analysis and statistical evaluation of all historic and live production runs; it also stores and manages all mold settings. In addition, there is provision for integration into higher-level systems such as ERP or MES systems. The CDC acts as the level that links the process and the higher-level systems. The benefit: all data can easily be networked with other systems across the company.

Industry 4.0 in injection molding: support with avoiding defects

Unambiguous traceability of parts will become possible in the near future. To turn this vision into a reality, the cavity pressure and/or mold wall temperature are measured during the production of plastic parts. Each cycle is broken down according to the cavities, with a time stamp to show the date and time of production. This data is stored in ComoNeo. The information stored in the system can also be marked on each manufactured part using a bar code or QR code, etc. At a later stage – in case of complaints, for instance – the measurement dataset relating to the part can be read directly from the CDC database, simply by scanning the code in. This data can also provide further information: when the part was produced, on which machine and as part of which production order, how the part was assessed and how the process was running before and after it was produced. It is also possible to link yet more information from MES systems, such as machine, material and mold data.

Thanks to the web technology utilized for ComoNeo and ComoDataCenter, production managers (for example) can already 'dial in' to view all data in real time, no matter where they are located. With Kistler’s system components, all the technical requirements are met for companies to implement Industry 4.0 in the injection molding production process.

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