Drying | 2 MINUTE READ

Dri-Air Readies Its Dryers for Industry 4.0 Today, and Industry 4.0 in the Future

Industry 4.0 is very much a work in progress, with key standards and protocols still in development, but that’s not stopping Dri-Air Industries from jumping into the technology.


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At NPE2018, the company is introducing the Dri-Air Dryer 4.0 (Booth W971) to give its customers a resin-drying technology that’s up to speed with what 4.0 means today and one that can adapt to where the industry-wide movement is headed in the future. Charlie Sears, Dri-Air’s president, says the Dri-Air Dryer 4.0 utilizes the OPC-UA protocol, developed by European plastics machinery association, Euromap, and intended to be the common language that all these newly conversant machines will speak in the future. But Sears, who has been with Dri-Air since 1985, and in the industry longer, brings a little perspective to the 4.0 hype.

“We have used the OPC-UA protocol,” Sears says, “but there is more to it.” Sears notes that Euromap is in the process of setting up the complete protocol, including, ultimately, where specific process information is located and what information is included, but when that actually occurs is as yet unknown. “Unfortunately we do not see this happening soon,” Sears says, “so the progress of 4.0 will be slowed down.”

That said, whenever these protocols are fully developed and implemented, Dri-Air is in, Sears says. “Industry 4.0, or whatever you want to call it, will be fully developed during the next few years,” Sears says. “Currently it is a concept that will use all information available to make decisions of operation. Dri-Air supports this effort and will be developing more ways to become efficient and adapt to the surroundings.”

For Dri-Air’s Dryer 4.0, a primary emphasis is connectivity, and for customers with multiple Dri-Air Dryer 4.0s, a central dryer control is available, with access to each dryer’s operating parameters and other important data. When a dryer needs servicing, an icon flashes showing what needs to be done, with directions for service and the parts required. The dryer’s motor control monitors motor performance, reporting this data to the main control. As a new Dri-Air 4.0 dryer is installed, it is automatically added to the group display,

Built with a modular construction, the Dri-Air 4.0 controls identify which module needs replacing in a maintenance scenario, with instructions on how to install it, and whether it is in stock. The dryer’s wireless technology allows processors to compare cycle times among dryers, molding machines and robots to determine the optimum cycle for your equipment. When a dryer is moved, Dryer 4.0 automatically senses the shift and changes the rotation as needed, eliminating the need for maintenance to rewire the rotation on blowers. Solid state relays monitor the heaters, reducing the need for alarms. By sensing and controlling air flow, temperature and hopper content, to create low return temperatures, the dryers can eliminates heat exchangers in processes that exceed 250 F. Laser sensors and load cells monitor material levels in dryer hoppers, calculating resin throughput for optimum operation. Dri-Air Dryer 4.0 adjusts fill time automatically to prevent material from spending too much time above the feed throat, and the system adapts air flow and process temperature by using a ‘sleep mode’ that idles in the regeneration cycle, reducing operating energy by 80%.