‘Industry 4.0’ Demo at Hanover Fair

Linking molding and 3D printing machines and part data via the "cloud" allows "mass customization."

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At recent shows such as NPE2015, Arburg has demonstrated its interpretation of the international “Industry 4.0” project to create integrated factories via networked production cells and supervisory computers (see March NPE2015 preview). Arburg (whose U.S. office just moved to Rocky Hill, Conn.) has applied Industry 4.0 principles to production of individualized products in series production—also called “mass customization.”

Arburg’s latest and most elaborate demo of this approach was at the April Hanover Fair in Germany. The product was a square rocker-type light switch. At a PC station, visitors chose a personal symbol and name combination, which were added to the individual product order (photo). These data were stored on an RFID chip card, which was inserted into the controller on an Arburg injection machine. The part was molded and an individual data-matrix (DM or QR) code was applied by laser.

The part data was linked to the production machines by means of a cloud. Thus, the DM/QR code applied to the part turned it into an information carrier, controlling its progress through the process chain automatically. (This indelible code is used in automotive safety-related parts such as airbags and in medical parts such as prostheses that are tailored to an individual patient.)

Next, an Arburg Freeformer 3D printer personalized the light switch by applying droplets of plastic onto the surface to produce the preselected symbol and name combination. Then came camera inspection for QC and individual packaging of the part. With the QR code printed on the package, visitors could use a smartphone to retrieve all the process data for their part on an individual web page.

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