An important feature of WITTMANN 4.0, the WITTMANN Group’s Industry 4.0 solution, is known by the name of Plug & Produce. The term Plug & Produce in WITTMANN 4.0 stands for the fact that this concept is able to make mould change easier and safer.
To make a plastic part in the required good quality, a number of peripheral appliances are normally needed in addition to the processing machine, which work together with the injection moulding machine in various ways. These include primarily mould temperature controllers and chillers, material dryers and gravimetric or volumetric blenders. The injection moulding machine and the appliances connected to it – where necessary also including a robot with downstream automation and quality inspection – are all combined with each other to form an injection moulding production cell. To ensure faultless production of a part, all these individual appliances within the production cell must be programmed with the correct mould-specific parameters.
In a WITTMANN 4.0 production cell, these parameters – together with those of the mould itself – can be saved in the injection moulding machine’s UNILOG B8 control system. As soon as a given mould data set is selected on the machine’s control system, the appropriate settings are transmitted to all other appliances in the production cell. The means of communication used in this case is an Ethernet network operating with the standardized Industry 4.0 OPC UA application protocol.
A special characteristic of the plastics industry is that injection moulding production cells are formed in an extremely flexible way when it comes to the peripherals included. Depending on the part to be produced in each case, several different peripherals or peripherals with different settings are required. For example, the injection moulding machine must be provided with a number of temperature controllers equal to the number of tempering zones inside the mould.
Thanks to WITTMANN 4.0 Plug & Produce, there is no need for machine operators to acquire any knowledge in the area of IT, except to realise that the network cables of the required appliances must be plugged into the network switch of the production cell. They are thus free to concentrate on the mechanical work such as connecting the peripherals via tempering hoses or material feed lines. The IT configuration of the production cell, which is still necessary, is handled by the WITTMANN 4.0 Router specially developed for that purpose.
The WITTMANN 4.0 Router combines all appliances in the production cell and represents the entire production cell externally with a single IP address. In this way, the coherence of the relevant data is also ensured for any MES system which is required to collect data from an injection moulding machine and the peripherals connected to it, without the risk of having the data of, say, a temperature controller in another production cell erroneously assigned to a given injection molding machine. In the opposite direction, the WITTMANN 4.0 Router also makes sure that an injection moulding machine can only recognise those peripherals which are present in its own production cell.
As soon as a production cell has been equipped with the necessary peripherals for a new product, the data set with the production parameters can be distributed within the production cell. If this data set is not already recorded in the injection moulding machine, the machine can also retrieve it from an MES system to which it has access. In this case, the data is routed via the firewall integrated in the WITTMANN 4.0 Router. The parameters (e.g. dosing formulation, robot teach program, drying parameters, settings for tempering and cooling) are subsequently distributed from the machine to the peripherals and the robot in the production cell. Once this is done, production can start immediately.
All in all, WITTMANN 4.0 Plug & Produce leads to substantially faster and easier product changeovers, consequently to a significant reduction in downtimes and ultimately more competitive production.