Industry 4.0 – The Phantom of Production
Industry 4.0 will be the talk of K 2016. But we won’t actually be able to put our hands on it anywhere. Because this keyword describes more of a vision than a technology, and more of a direction to be followed than a product that can be bought. The ultimate aim is to produce high volume numbers in a cost-efficient, yet also flexible manner, i. e. to marry the efficiency of series production with the charm of manufacturing by hand. This is what became clear from a forum staged by the VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, at the end of June, where Arburg’s Head of Marketing, Dr. Christoph Schumacher, adopted the role of "masterbatch" and injected a certain colorful flair into the subsequent discussion through his pointed introduction.
The call for customer-specific small series and personalized individual items will not, however, bring about a renaissance of hand-crafted goods but will be achieved through networking and automation on a massive scale. Combining inexpensive mass-produced goods with individualization techniques, such as additive production or digital printing, brings together the best of both worlds. Configuring this interplay in a flexible manner is not possible without software and data exchange. This has its advantages: plant components that communicate with each other can optimize processes, predict problems and avoid stoppages.
Boosting quality and reducing costs in production, i. e. increasing production efficiency, is something that every company wishes to achieve. But whether markets already exist for "batch size: 1" will depend to a great extent on the product costs. While the "one-piece flow" condenses a number of promises of Industry 4.0 into a visionary idea in a vivid manner, it is probably not the most important application case for the plastics industry. Despite this, it could still be worthwhile hunting down the phantom. And not only at K 2016.
Dr. Karlhorst Klotz
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International Polymer Processing, the journal of the Polymer Processing Society, is a discussion forum for the world-wide community of engineers and scientists in the field of polymer processing.
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