Kistler is a global leader providing modular solutions in dynamic measurement technology for pressure, force, torque and acceleration applications. Applications Engineer, Duncan Webster has been with the company for over 10 years and is next to face the HotSeat…
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will Kistler respond?
I believe Industry 4.0/automation, post-consumer resin (PCR)/recycled material, and renewable energy will be the ongoing topics for the UK plastics industry.
Industry 4.0 might seem daunting, but it is the natural progression of factory automation, and like with everything, it will happen a step at a time. When I started out in the plastics industry, it was typical to see an operator per machine, now 6-axis robots are the norm. Automated inspection and closed-loop process control is all part of the same topic. Kistler has always been and will continue to be at the forefront of this.
There is a growing public demand that more and more PCR/recycled material is used. For the plastics industry, if the supply of PCR is reliable and at a competitive price, it will be used. Again, closed-loop control has a role to play here. We do see an increasing demand for Kistler “SLP” automatic switchover control, which is used to compensate for material viscosity changes.
With the increasing demand to reduce global emissions, I’m sure energy consumption and renewable energy production will become a hot topic in the plastics industry in the years to come. The benefits of all-electric moulding machines and servo-hydraulic machines means they continue to gain popularity. Electrification of other processes is also taking place. Kistler servo presses used in assembly operations are up to 90% more efficient than an equivalent pneumatic press. With large factory roofs for solar panels and car parks for wind turbines, I believe it will make increasingly more sense for the plastics industry to invest in producing its own energy.
How has Kistler developed during your tenure?
The innovation and development of new products in response to customers’ needs is central at Kistler. So, change is a continuous process. We have new products or updates every week so it can be a challenge to keep up sometimes. During my time at Kistler, I have seen significant change. Cavity pressure measurement and control used to be an R&D tool, or something implemented when there was a problem. Now, with the ComoNeo, it is a robust, industrial production system.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
Being customer-centric and providing good support is key. I used to be a Kistler customer, so I really do understand the problems our customers face, and their needs and motivations. When they get good results, customers will not only come back, but they will recommend you and the technology to others in the industry.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
Like with everything in life, achieving balance. It’s not easy, it doesn’t happen on its own, and you must work at it continuously.
What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an apprentice joining now?
You spend a great deal of your life working, so it’s important to be passionate, interested and care about what you do. I think I’m very privileged to be able to say I have always enjoyed work.
My advice would be to take every opportunity you can to learn new things and go to new places. Go on every training course offered to you and ask to go on the ones that aren’t!
What hidden talents do you have?
I don’t get many opportunities these days, but I love rock climbing and was pretty good at it in my day. There was a time where most summer weekends were spent down the Wye Valley or up in the Peak District.
I can get down a mountain on a snowboard in a reasonable fashion and I quite like a game of chess.
In recent years, after a fair amount of pressure from my wife, I’ve taken up running. Last year (with the help of a couple of national lockdowns) I managed over 400 miles. My wife averages about 1000 miles a year, so I still have some way to go to catch her up….