Industry 4.0: Accelerating Automation & Digital Design in the Plastics Industry

Industry 4.0: Accelerating Automation & Digital Design in the Plastics Industry

Nearly every physical object has a link to the digital world these days, and your new injection molding machine is no exception. According to a new study by The Freedonia Group, Global Plastics Processing Machinery, global sales for injection molding equipment are expected to grow 5.6% per year through 2021. One factor driving sales in the near term is the improved digital capabilities of new units – part of an overall trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing known as Industry 4.0.

Not quite as radical as it sounds, Industry 4.0 is the latest iteration of an ongoing trend toward greater digitization and automation in industrial equipment. Most equipment currently on the market looks very much like its predecessors, with a few additional data capabilities.

Meet the New Manufacturing

Plastics processors are already looking for equipment that tells them everything they need to know about their machines’ performance directly on their computers or smartphones – as with KraussMaffei’s Data-Xplorer process monitoring unit. They’re also seeking machines like ARBURG’s ALLROUNDER, which talk to each other, so that when one unit goes down, another can take over the job.

Advocates of Industry 4.0, however, are hoping and preparing for much more significant changes to plastics manufacturing. Machinery OEMs are working on process control technology that stops defects before they start, with software (like ENGEL’s iQ software, for example) that self-adjusts equipment to keep everything within the correct process parameters, no operator input required.

Machines that can reduce waste by building each part from the ground up are also a plus.

3D Printing & Digital Design

In addition to the myriad changes to injection molding and other plastics processing machines brought about by greater manufacturing digitization, Industry 4.0 has given rise to an almost entirely new type of machine: the 3D printer. Although 3D printers were first invented over 30 years ago, an overall trend favoring automated, digital methods of designing and creating products has brought these machines into the spotlight.

For example, on February 6, HP, manufacturer of the Multi Jet Fusion production 3D printer, announced a partnership with Dassault Systèmes to combine HP’s printer and materials expertise with Dassault’s SOLIDWORKS 3D printing software knowledge. By further easing the digital design processes required to create an optimal 3D printed part, the two companies are helping to make 3D printing a mainstream plastics processing technology.

Where to Find Out More

For more details on both plastics processing machinery and 3D printing, check out the new Global Plastics Processing Machinery study from The Freedonia Group. If you’re interested in a deep dive on the 3D printing industry, take a look at the recently published Global 3D Printing Markets report.

About the Author

Zoe Biller is an Industry Analyst at the Freedonia Group where she develops and writes reports on the global chemicals, capital goods and polymers & materials markets.