Machinery: Industry 4.0 takes production processes to a new level

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Industry 4.0 is one of the strongest growth drivers for machine makers, as seen in the presentations by companies at the recently concluded Fakuma 2017 show in Germany.

Development of an interface

As one of the first industries, the European injection moulding machine manufacturers, led by German machine group VDMA, worked on an internationally uniform interface for the exchange of data between injection moulding machines and master computers or MES, known as the Euromap 77. This was presented at the K show in Düsseldorf last year. A demonstration showed how several machines that were set up in different halls exchanged data with each other.

Euromap 77 is based on the communications standard OPC Unified Architecture (OPC-UA), which has been established by the non-commercial OPC foundation and has already been used in many industries as the basis for the communication between machines of different manufacturers. The independent industry association also was involved as a consultant in the development of Euromap 77.

“The big advantage of OPC UA is that it is manufacturer independent. It is a technology that is available to everyone and is not dependent on a control unit manufacturer. This is a main reason why OPC UA is increasingly becoming the standard of Industry 4.0,” said Jürgen Peters, Head of the software development department at German machine maker Arburg.

In September 2017, Euromap 77 released a second Release Candidate, i.e. a sort of beta version, which can be accessed by anyone. “Transparency is very important Fakuma-Arburg to us at this point to gain a broad acceptance amongst the machine manufacturers and the software providers, as well as the users,” says Dr. Harald Weber who leads the technical Euromap working groups.

All the large injection moulding machine manufacturers were involved in the development of the new interface in the European umbrella association Euromap. Besides Arburg, companies involved were Engel, Ferromatik Milacron, KraussMaffei, Netstal, Negri Bossi, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag and Wittmann Battenfeld.

For MES manufacturers, Euromap 77 offers the big benefit that a machine that supports the standard can be connected via plug-and-play and deliver a reliable basic set of information with which the basic MES functions can be represented, according to Euromap.

Euromap 77 is just the beginning. It is already being worked on a further interface – Euromap 79 to establish a secure connection between injection moulding machines and robots. The biggest challenge there is to make some signals available in real-time, so that it does not come to collisions between the machine and the moving robot. Since OPC UA itself is not capable of real-time, it uses Time Sensitive Networks (TSN). However, it will not stop at Euromap 79.

The connection of periphery devices is already in the planning, for material flow control and for extrusion facilities.

The growing number of interfaces finally requires a uniform, superordinate structure. It is worked on such a structure already, so that the interfaces for different plastics and rubber machinery will follow a unified pattern.

Practical showcase of Industry 4.0

At the Fakuma show, of the ten exhibits at its booth and ten at other booths, machine maker Arburg aligned itself to Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation and Smart Factory with products such as the Arburg host computer system (ALS) as well as the integration of IT solutions into the production process.

As a third highlight, Arburg presented a new practical example of Industry 4.0 that was tailored specifically to the requirements of the injection moulding sector. In this regard, customer requirements were integrated into the running injection moulding process for multi-variant high-volume production.

A compact turnkey system featuring a vertical Allrounder 375 V produced flexibly tension straps in various lengths, colours and end piece combinations on demand from shot-to-shot – without any need for conversion.

Visitors could enter the desired tension strap variant directly at the terminal, causing the order to be transmitted directly to the central Selogica control system via the OPC UA communication protocol. The tension strap was automatically cut to the selected length, both ends spliced by means of a plasma process and placed in the cavities of the four-cavity mould in accordance with the order. Handling was performed by a six-axis robot housed within the installation area. The inserts were optionally overmoulded in hook/ hook, hook/eyelet or eyelet/eyelet combinations and the finished tension strap then removed from the system. In industrial practice, this kind of high-volume production with multiple variants is ideal for cable assembly in the automotive industry, for example.

Arburg also presented numerous smart solutions in the service area, such as condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, the remote maintenance tool for fast, efficient and reliable online support, the new “Mobile Maintenance” ALS module for maintenance and repair and machine connectivity via various OPC UA interfaces.

Companies roll out new solutions for Industry 4.0

Machine maker KraussMaffei unveiled at Fakuma its MaXecution MES, specifically designed for small injection moulding companies. The new software creates more transparency in production by means of productivity indicators, for example regarding the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), the management of moulds and resources and the statistics on machines and rejects. In total, using this software means better capacity utilisation of the machinery pool, fewer rejects and higher overall equipment effectiveness, says the firm.


The MaXecution system, which KraussMaffei designed in collaboration with German MES developer MPDV Mikrolab, offers KraussMaffei customers a plugand- play solution that is tailored to their specific needs. Based on MPDV’s popular Hydra MES, MaXecution is offered in three versions, so that processors can decide on the basis of requirements how many functions of an MES they need.

Sister company of KraussMaffei, Swiss machine maker Netstal, meanwhile, unveiled its e-service and the cloud-based production monitoring platform AnalytiX, both of which will be commercialised in the second quarter of 2018. Furthermore, Netstal machines can also be linked via standard Euromap interfaces to KraussMaffei’s new MaXecution MES system.

Netstal’s cloud-based analysis tool AnalytiX is an integral component of the new e-service portal and will also be available as an independent app for smartphones and tablets running the iOS and Android operating systems.


AnalytiX enables customers to monitor their machines at any time regardless of location and benefit from automated analysis of the processes and machine conditions, saving time and increasing employee efficiency. Supported by intelligent stability and productivity ratios, the user can recognise negative trends or performance deviations of individual machines at a glance. Stability specifications of individual machines or the entire production process involves a newly developed ratio based on an intelligent algorithm. Overall performance is detailed as a single percentage after taking into account ten crucial process parameters. In addition, the productivity coefficient determines the efficiency of overall production and individual machines, also returning this as a percentage. Another possible option is continuous online monitoring of the power consumption per cycle.

AnalytiX analyses over 60 different production parameters available for each individual machine. This enables, for example, the cycle times, metering stroke and injection time to be remotely monitored in real time and used for independent analyses.

Customer portals from machine makers

Engel introduced its e-connect, the new customer portal, at Fakuma. Engel says it will also integrate future service products for the smart factory into the customer portal. Meanwhile, the Austrian machine maker has also opened an inject 4.0 hotspot in its technology and automation centre in Hagen, Germany, “to very clearly communicate the new opportunities of digitalisation and networking,” and to offer live demos of all its inject 4.0 products.


Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery has developed a web-based software solution to provide its customers with a central platform for a wide range of services. The modular myConnect system will open up access to a full range of online services from the injection moulding machinery manufacturer. From the second quarter of 2018, the company plans to deliver all its machines with network-compatible equipment, and also with the option of wireless connectivity.

The standard package of modular service products in myConnect contains five modules. These comprise online support for request help from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag at any time from the machine’s control system, a PC or a mobile device’ myDocumentation that allows customers to call up all the documentation about their machine at the touch of a button; myPartsShop that allows customers to order spare parts online. The last two are myLifeCycleLog: that records all key events and provides customers with a complete history of every single machine and myConnectApp that allows customers to track their production from any location.

Machine makers bask in glory of high sales

European machine makers had much to gloat about with most of the companies participating at Fakuma scaling higher heights in terms of machine sales.

For the fourth year running, Arburg expects record sales, as well as projecting continued growth in 2017. “In 2017 we are set to exceed our 2016 consolidated turnover of EUR636 million, breaking the record for the fourth year in succession. For 2018, we expect the level to be as good as 2017,” said Managing Director Sales Gerhard Böhm.

For Engel, Germany continues to be one of the highest revenue markets in Europe, with sales having increased by 50% over the last five years. Dr Stefan Engleder, CEO of the Engel Group, also said, “In the current financial year, we are expecting revenues of approximately EUR1.5 billion. This is a significant increase as compared to the previous year’s revenue of EUR1.36 billion.” At 55%, Europe represents the lion’s share of revenue for the Austrian firm, followed by 24% in America and 20% in Asia.

KraussMaffei also anticipates another record year, as orders and sales for 2017 have upped by 10%, compared to the previous turnover in 2016. Meanwhile, China, according to Group CEO Frank Stieler, is the machine maker’s driver of growth. “China and other Asian markets will increasingly become more important for us in the future. Through our new owner ChemChina, we now have even better access to the markets than before.”

In view of this, KraussMaffei has doubled production volume at its plant in Haiyan, China, and expects an additional increase in 2018. Meanwhile, in cooperation with an international leasing group, KraussMaffei and Netstal are testing the waters in Germany to determine the feasibility of leasing rather than selling standard injection moulding machines. Customers can lease machines for four years, after which they can extend the lease, purchase the machine by paying its residual value or simply return it. KraussMaffei will offer its CX ClassiX machines for the programme.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery says it is set to achieve its highest-ever sales volume in 2017, with revenues to increase by 17% to EUR273 million, beating its previous record year of 2015. A 20% increase in orders is anticipated for the current year, it said. The main reason for this positive trend, it says, is the take up of its El-Exis high-speed and InElect all-electric machines.

Companies have also been investing in their facilities to meet demand growth. Wittmann Battenfeld’s EUR15 million expansion of its Kottingbrunn plant will be completed by December 2017, with further extensions expected in 2018. The company also expects the expansion of its Czech Republic facility to be completed in 2018, and will expand its facility in Nuremberg, Germany, next year, too.

Engel also announced comprehensive investments into its worldwide production sites, the continued expansion of its sales and service teams, and the reinforcement of local application-technical, automation and industry expertise. Some of the EUR375 million expansions include a new facility in St Valentin, Austria, and the expansion of its Shanghai plant to commemorate its tenth anniversary of operations in China.


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