Inline system monitors diameter, wall thickness and potential sagging in large-diameter pipes in real time

Millimeter-wave technology developed by Sikora AG (Bremen, Germany) measures the diameter, wall thickness and potential sagging in plastic pipes in real time during the extrusion process. It has helped plastics extrusion company Gerodur MPM Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH & Co KG (Gossau, Switzerland) optimize processes, specifically in the production of large pipes measuring between 250 and 640 mm (9.8 and 25 inches) in diameter and with wall thicknesses up to 60 mm (2.3 inches). The benefits of the recently developed technology are outlined in a case study published by Sikora.

Sikora system installed at Gerodur
Sikora's CenterWave 6000 millimeter-wave based system is used in Gerodur's extrusion line. Pictured are Peter Hügen, Area Sales Manager at Sikora, and Andre Richter, Team Leader of the Piping Systems Division at Gerodur.

Gerodur has been extruding high-quality plastic pipes for more than a quarter century. It has been using Sikora’s CenterWave 6000 millimeter-wave based system for two years, and has achieved stellar results, said the company. A key feature of the quality control system is its installation directly after the first vacuum tank.

The system monitors the pipe’s entire circumference, measuring the diameter, ovality, wall thickness and sagging in real time and, thus, enabling centering of the extrusion tools early in the process, explained Gerodur’s Andre Richter, Team Leader of the Piping Systems Division. Ultrasound is a widely available alternative measuring technology, but it is temperature dependent and, therefore, can only be applied later in the production process. “It is our goal to receive reliable and accurate information about the pipe dimensions as early in the process as possible in order to take action, if necessary. Early measurement of the wall thickness is of significant importance considering that pipes with large diameters and large wall thicknesses are being produced at a line speed of 0.5 meters (19.5 inches) per minute,” added Richter.

Gerodur pipes
Gerodur extrudes plastic products for heating and sanitary applications, piping systems, profiles and geothermal systems.

Gerodur is a firm believer in continuous improvement, and data supplied by CenterWave 6000 technology provides a foundation for process enhancement. “We are in close exchange with Sikora and develop further together,” said Axel Mantey, Managing Director of Technology at Gerodur. “For example, we are discussing ideas to adapt the system to our line requirements, even after having purchased the device. This applies to customized software modifications, for instance, or individual visualizations of measurement data to support the operator,” he explained. Through this, processes are optimized and productivity rises.

Capturing data and finding meaningful ways to apply it will be an ongoing challenge in the era of Industry 4.0, added Mantey. In extrusion lines, various systems generate different sets of data. Cooperation between machine manufacturers and manufacturers of measuring devices, such as Sikora, will play a key role in evaluating and processing this data so that it can provide operators with actionable intelligence, said Mantey. “Sikora’s millimeter wave measuring system is well equipped with regard to Industry 4.0 and already provides interfaces such as OPC UA and industrial fieldbus connections for networking with the production plant.” The combination of future-oriented technology with proven functionality and reliable service makes the collaboration with Sikora particularly valuable, added Mantey.

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