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Future of Compounding - Industry 4.0

Luis Roca – Apr 30, 2018

Industry of the Future - Industry 4.0 In the last few years, a new concept has emerged strongly in the industrial world - industry 4.0. It has been wrongly identified as the internet of things since this denomination is already included in the general term of industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 can be defined as the transformations of the current production systems due to the integration of digital technologies and internet. To reach this modification, a group of existing technologies has been defined to boost the inter-connectivity between man and the industrial process, or even different equipment.

This boost in inter-connectivity will help to obtain the maximum amount of information about:

 » Processing
 » Storing, and
 » Managing

All this together will ensure the best quality and productivity.

The final goal of industry 4.0 is not to create a new system for controlling the process, but to improve the effectiveness of the companies, by:

 » Reducing time to market
 » Improving innovation, and
 » Saving money in resources (workforce and/or energy) among other things

Pillars of Industry 4.0

The defined technologies are considered, 'enabling technologies of industry 4.0' and are also called the 'pillars of industry 4.0'. These technologies are:

 » The cloud
 » Big data
 » Additive manufacturing
 » Internet of things
 » Cybersecurity
 » Autonomous robots
 » Augmented reality
 » Simulation, and
 » Process integration
Pillars of Industry 4.0

Between these technologies, there are ones that are:

 » More directly linked with compounding and the improvement of productive processes, and
 » More related to data storage, managing and administrative issues

Companies, depending on their priorities, can choose the technologies from industry 4.0 they want to integrate. It is not mandatory to incorporate all nine pillars, but originally those pillars were thought as complementary to obtain the maximum yield in the companies.

So that, technologies like simulation, advance sensoring, big data, augmented reality or additive manufacturing could relatively be applied easier to the production of compounds, reactive extrusion, and masterbatches of PVC formulation.

Now, let's learn how these selected technologies can improve the processes in terms of productivity and quality.

Process Simulation

Process simulation is a very interesting way of understanding and foreseeing what would happen, especially while trying to:

 » Develop a new compound
 » Modify existing ones
 » Process Simulation - A Scientific ApproachScale up to industrial process, and
 » Increase productivity

The direct economic impact would be the shortening of time to market and the savings in raw materials.

In the last decades, different simulation software for Co-rotating twin screw extrusion has appeared in the market (Ludovic®, TXS®, Akro twin or Sigma etc.). They can give information about how different settings of our machine can influence the process. For example:

 » Melt temperature evolution
 » Degree of filling
 » Residence time
 » Specific mechanical input
 » Torque consumption and shear among others

This forecast software can help us design more robust processes and can save time in the compound development stages. This software can also be helpful while designing/assembling new screw profiles.

Unlike Finite elements simulation software that required very powerful hardware and quite some time to simulate (mold filling in injection molding), most of the simulation software for co-rotating twin screw extruders are called “1D software”. This simplifies a lot the calculations and shortens the simulation times.

The simulation will not give absolute values but is a scientific way to evaluate tendencies with the most promising strategy or approach. Also, it can help evaluate the factors affecting final properties or productivity.

Nevertheless, it is important to have knowledge of the process to set up the right boundary conditions and to understand the response of the software to extract good conclusions. In most of the cases,

…the more and complete information we have about the polymer or compound
normally in terms of viscosity evolution Vs temperature, the better the results of simulation

Ludovic Screenshoot of Melt Temperature Evolution
Ludovic Screenshoot of Melt Temperature Evolution

 » Continue reading to know more about advancing technologies of industry 4.0 and modification in processing parameters for improved properties of a compound 

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