Plastic Injection Moulding Machines in the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry is set to be the largest industry for injection moulding machine market between 2016 and 2021. By 2020, the use of plastics in automotive will increase by 75%.

Therefore, properties such as low energy consumption, low maintenance cost, short production cycle time and high accuracy of all injection moulding machines contribute to the growth of the injection moulding machine market.

Corporate social responsibility programmes means that suppliers of moulded plastics have had to respond in equal measure with the overall result of reducing the environmental impacts of the product.

The sustainability story has gripped major users, as expressed in their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. Suppliers of moulded parts have had to respond in equal measure with the overall result of reducing the environmental impacts of the product. Energy efficiency has been a fundamental focus as energy taxes, such as the UK’s Climate Change Levy, have bitten deep across Europe.

Philip Law
Director General of the British Plastics Federation

Challenges and Solutions

MICA® (Modular Industrial Computing Architecture) is a tiny rugged industrial computer for use in production environments. It uses open software architecture (LINUX) so it can be easily customised depending on the application. In addition, it enables you to save, process and evaluate production data.

MICA® is key to overcome the challenges users of Plastic Injection Moulding Machines (PIMM) in the automotive industry are faced with, here's how:

Old injection moulding machines require manual assistance:

Many machines in well-established production lines can be between 15 and 30 years old and still perform their tasks successfully but lack computing power and memory capacity to record, store relevant data and communicate with modern technologies. Furthermore, these machines use older software protocol operating languages such as EUROMAP 15 which cannot be directly connected to a factory MES (Manufacturing Execution System). MES keeps track of all manufacturing information in real-time, receiving up-to-the minute data from robots, machine monitors and employees. It is also increasingly being integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software suites to improve productivity, reduce cycle-time and total time required to produce an order.

By integrating IIoT / MES accessing edge computing devices such, as MICA®, directly with the old injection moulding machines, machine process parameters can be remotely monitored and modified quicker via centralised factory control stations. This reduces downtime and enables man power to be effectively employed. Machine operators could even monitor and affect the process of the production line from off site, via smartphone or suitable tablet device.

Energy Efficiency:

As quoted earlier, energy efficiency has been a fundamental focus as energy taxes such as the UK’s climate change levy have bitten deep across Europe.

Condition monitoring and energy monitoring can be implemented. By installing MICA®, the device can store, analyse and process data from existing or extra sensors. Tasks such as monitoring pressure, temperature and flow rates becomes easy, whilst allowing remote centralised process control adjustment via the MES network. Communication with the machine fitted sensors is achieved via a simple Ethernet switch and interlinked I/O blocks. As a result, service intervals can be extended and manufacturing productivity improvements can be achieved. A MICA® basic or MICA® Energy can act as a suitable device in these circumstances.

Efficient Machine Maintenance:

Critical operating parts of a Plastic Injection Moulding Machine are subject to continuous wear and tear include the plastic screw pump and associated check valves. As wear increases, it can result in a significant number of rejected parts and expensive financial losses.

The integration of MICA® Energy variant provides RS485 Modbus TCP / IP compatible I/O interfaces for linking to the appropriate functional I/O blocks on a machine that access this specific operating data. MICA® Energy can set up alarm conditions for when these limits are breached, allowing operators to carry out corrective maintenance as part of the important predictive maintenance process. An example of this can be demonstrated through monitoring the changes in the operating power curve characteristics of the screw pump and the pressure loading at the check valves.  

HARTING’s MICA® (Modular Industrial Computing Architecture) range of rugged, compact edge computing device variants are ideal for applying cost-effective Digital Retrofit Industry 4.0 productivity improvements into existing plastics injection moulding production facilities.

MICA® provides a platform to enable the best business decisions to be taken to optimise return on investment on plastics injection moulding line capital projects.

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