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Karen Laird

June 15, 2016

4 Min Read
Engel anticipates a future connected plastics industry

At the Engel pre-K gathering organized last week at the machinery supplier’s Schwertberg headquarters in Austria, it soon became very clear that this event’s theme centered on the word ‘smart’.  Smart machines, smart production and smart service: these are the components of the smart factory envisioned by Engel, in which manufacturing process are self-optimizing as a consequence of networked, integrated production systems, data processing and decentralized, intelligent assistance systems.

These are developments which have all become possible due to the unprecedented level of computing power available today – and to a number of smart decisions taken by Engel; decision which have guided the company toward continued growth and a healthy financial results. In financial year 2015-2016, the company generated a record-breaking € 1.25 billion in turnover, representing a 16 percent year-on-year increase, said CSO Dr Christoph Steger. “And Engel is expecting order intake to remain at a high level throughout the coming financial year,” he noted.

The results were thanks to, among other factors, the company’s consolidation of its market position in Europe and further expanded market share in Asia and America. Steger said that in Asia, the trend toward more quality and lower cost is strengthening demand for advanced technology and automation across all application areas. In the US, as manufacturing returns to the country, processors are modernizing their operations with new equipment and bringing these back to a competitive level with innovative technologies.

Steger also announced that the company will be investing almost € 100 million in the expansion of various locations in Europe and in Shanghai, and new equipment in the 2016-2017 financial year. This will include a new apprentice workshop and a daycare center for the children of employees at the Schwertberg location.

CTO and soon-to-be-CEO Stefan Engleder - he will officially take over from Peter Neumann at K 2016 – then presented the comprehensive range of inject 4.0 products, from new solutions for intelligent control to forward-looking maintenance, that Engel will be highlighting at the show later this year.

In the quest to create a ‘smart machine’, Engel has developed a suite of iQ software products that enable the continual analysis of critical process parameters in order to identify and immediately compensate for deviations even before rejects are produced. For example, the iQ weight control tool keeps the injected melt volume and the viscosity constant throughout the entire injection molding process, including the holding pressure phase. The new iQ clamp control software monitors mold breathing during the process, to continually readjust the clamping force. Even if the environmental conditions change, or the granulate quality fluctuates, the software solutions keep the process constant and consistently ensure high product quality.

Building on the development of the Engel e-flomo system, which monitors and documents all mold cooling and temperature control circuits and independently regulates either the flow volumes or differences in temperature, Engel is now also introducing an e flomo and temperature control unit merged at controller level to form a single unit. With the help of the new iQ flow control software, the pump speed is adapted automatically to current requirements based on the measurement values determined by Engel e-flomo, which significantly lowers energy consumption.

Engel’s concept of ‘smart production’ is characterized by a high level of vertical and horizontal data integration. Its e-factory MES solution makes it possible to easily localize bottlenecks and downtime. The system allows not only the production cells of an individual site but also a global production network to be integrated, optimizing transparency and processing efficiency.

Engel e-factory ‘s modular design mean it can be adapted exactly to the processor's individual requirements and is able to grow with the system flexibly according to demand. A new feature is the energy module providing a detailed presentation, analysis and optimization of the energy consumers in a system.

Engel is also taking its ‘smart service’ a step forward with the launch of condition-based, predictive maintenance which makes it possible to exploit the service life of critical machine parts to the full and avoid any unplanned equipment stoppages that occur in spite of this. The new Engel e-connect.monitor will make it possible to analyze the condition of process-critical machine core components during live operation and reliably predict the risk of default. Regular condition monitoring supports process optimization in the long term. Critical process settings that accelerate the wear of certain components are identified by analyzing the wear parameters and are then subsequently avoided through process changes.

To allay concerns about the privacy of its customers’ data, Engel emphasized its use of state-of-the-art safety technologies for data transfer. Furthermore, the company is working with its customers and partners to establish OPC UA (Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture) as a shared information mode in the plastics sector, even in the field of condition monitoring. The communication protocol offers great flexibility with its service-based and scalable structure, independent of any platform. In addition, safety features are already an integral part of the architecture.

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