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How will the latest technological advances impact the plastic manufacturing industry? We predict what technology will be innovating our industry with the fourth industrial revolution.

The fourth industrial revolution is commonly known as Industry 4.0. This follows on from steam power in the first, the production line and electricity in the second, and the programmable electronics and IT solutions in the third revolution. The key elements of the fourth iteration are connectivity and communication between cyber-physical systems, cloud computing and intelligent machines.

Industry 4.0 allows people and machines to be more connected than ever before, thanks to machines producing an unprecedented amount of data about almost every aspect of their working life. Advanced data analysis means that manufacturers can improve efficiency, quality and time to market.

Large data sets have created the potential for an autonomous smart factory, where machinery and equipment is intelligent enough to optimise its own processes and communicate with both other machines and humans. This means that all other tiers of the supply chain and production cycle are aware of how production is progressing and can adjust accordingly.

How will Industry 4.0 impact upon the manufacturing industry? Stephen Hunt, BPF Membership Services Director, said: “Industry 4.0 clearly has the potential to significantly change the plastics industry. The development of ‘smart factories’ will create amazing opportunities for manufacturers in the plastics industry and we will soon be able to optimise manufacturing processes in ways that it is currently hard to imagine.”

Key requirements for plastic manufacturers include

Intelligent Machinery

Machines within a plastic manufacturing smart factory are able to use data to make every process more efficient. For example, an injection moulding machine will begin to preheat only when it has received data that the previous process is nearing completion.

This communication between devices could help to reduce the amount of time that an injection moulding device is sitting on standby. Generating and maintaining the required level of heat to melt plastic requires a significant amount of energy. As a result intelligent machinery can help to reduce wasted energy which is beneficial for the manufacturers and the environment.

The abundance of real-time data allows accurate forecasting to be produced. This means that customers can be kept up to date with the progress throughout the production. 

Predictive Maintenance

Smart factories will be so data-rich that components within machines could generate diagnostic reports on their own functions and communicate failed, or weak points. This will allow the factory to plan pre-emptive maintenance when a machine indicates that a repair is imminent. This will aid productivity by ensuring that there are significantly fewer interruptions to manufacturing due to unexpected machine failure and the associated delays in sourcing and repair.

The advanced nature of the predictive maintenance allows manufacturers to establish alternative plans to ensure that production is not delayed or slowed and customer orders remain on track.

The ability to connect every machine on the factory floor together via a single cloud network makes the factory a single entity working together towards one purpose instead of separate elements. The machines can collect, analyse and share this data to make decisions that maximise repeatability in the injection moulding process, consistent quality and avoid unplanned downtime.

Visit Essentra’s Industry 4.0 Hub for more forward thinking views. It’s created by a manufacturer, for manufacturers.

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