Trialling the Demonstration Phase at End User Sites

During the summer 2017, the PREVIEW system was installed, tested and validated at the facilities of four end users: MPT, PROMOLDING, PROFORM and SRSP. At each demonstrator, the performances of the system were measured following a methodology previously defined by the consortium. Assessing the performance of the subsystems and of the whole system in four real industrial scenarios has been a challenge as the requirements, system specifications and facilities varied from one end-user to the other.

At the four demonstrations, the whole PREVIEW system was successfully installed and the four subsystems correctly communicated with each other and worked all together to form only one PREVIEW system. The end users could finally have access on their smartphones/tablets to all the useful process information provided by the PREVIEW system such as alerts, setup predictions, production and quality control and other static machine information.

The demonstration phase has been an essential step of the PREVIEW project to greatly improve the functioning of each subsystem and to make the PREVIEW system even more performant.

WCN

Figure 1: PREVIEW demonstration taking place at a) MPT, b) PROMOLDING, c) PROFORM and d) Smithers Rapra


Great Success at Interplas

The PREVIEW team represented by Smithers Rapra attended Interplas in Birmingham, UK from 26th to 28th September, 2017. The main purpose was to exhibit its cyber physical system for the optimisation of injection moulding to machine manufacturers, polymer producers, suppliers, researchers and service providers in the plastic sector.
Interplas is the UK’s leading plastic industry event and provides a platform for more than 400 exhibitors from different parts of the world to present and promote recent innovations and technological advancements related to advanced plastic manufacturing process, plastic automotive and medical industries, recycling etc.

Figure 1 – PREVIEW stand at Interplas

The interactive PREVIEW stand attracted a large number of visitors from the polymer industry throughout the three days of the event. The visitors were eagerly interested to know about the whole PREVIEW system, its working principles, the characteristics of each sub-system, economic benefits, stability of the system in the industrial environment etc.

Figure 2- Visitors in PREVIEW stand at Interplas

To make the PREVIEW system easily understandable and representable to the visitors, a simpler version of the Data Acquisition System (DAS) was developed. The visitors could inflate a football with a bicycle pump equipped with a pressure sensor and follow in real-time the evolution of the pressure with a simplified Data Acquisition System. Additionally, a tailored version of the Location Based Content Delivery (LBCD) system was also presented to the visitors. With the combination of two Low Energy Bluetooth beacons installed on the stand and the PREVIEW mobile app running on a tablet, the visitors could use the proximity detection feature of the LBCD and have access on the mobile device to the process information provided by the PREVIEW system such as alerts, setup predictions, production and quality control and documentation about the PREVIEW project. The visitors found it easy to operate and considered it innovative, advanced and very comprehensive to monitor and optimise the whole production process.

They also saw the potential benefits associated with reducing the production set-up time, scrap, raw material and energy consumption of injection moulding process. Queries from the visitors were answered and details of the PREVIEW project were provided by the researchers and consultants of Smithers Rapra. The following areas were found to be of interest for the visitors –
1. Technical details of each subsystem particularly for the wireless network technology of the PREVIEW system.
2. Practical experiences and robustness of the system in the industrial environment.
3. Economic advantages of using PREVIEW system in industries.
4. Equiplast exhibition and practical demonstration opportunity of the PREVIEW system in the Netherlands on 23rd November, 2017 were also discussed with the visitors.

To make the technical information of the PREVIEW project more accessible to all of the participants, exhibitors and speakers at Interplas, Dr Julien Loste, consultant at Smithers Rapra, gave a presentation on ‘Merging Smart Factories with High Volume Manufacturing’. He started by describing the problems faced in the injection moulding industry to improve productivity and the need to monitor the injection moulding process. Then, he highlighted how the PREVIEW system enables plastic moulders and manufacturers to close this gap by incorporating cavity sensors and enabling the digitalisation of cavity and machine process parameters.

Finally, he explained how it is possible to correct any process inconsistencies by using the advanced predictive system that analyses and suggests injection moulding machine parameters to the operator to ensure the best part quality. This data transmission process is possible due to an efficient, novel and robust wireless network protocol that overcomes the usual difficulties encountered in a large industrial environment (impracticality of cables and interferences).

Figure 3 – Dr Julien Loste, Consultant at Smithers Rapra, delivering a presentation on PREVIEW system at Interplas

It was an excellent opportunity to interact and present PREVIEW to a large number of visitors and a wide range of participants at Interplas and get their feedbacks on what the system has to offer. The success and experience of Interplas will be beneficial to prepare the PREVIEW team for upcoming events: Equiplast at the Gran Via, Barcelona 2nd to 6th October and Advanced Engineering at the NEC, Birmingham, UK 1st to 2nd November.


PREVIEW Concludes Its Final Trial Demo at Smithers Rapra

The fourth and final full scale demo trial of the PREVIEW system was performed recently at Smithers Rapra Polymer Processing and Development Centre (PPDC), at their site in Shawbury, UK. Two of the partners in this European project (Horizon 2020), Plastia (Spain) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany) travelled to Smithers Rapra’s facilities to continue the implementation and testing of the PREVIEW technology. The partners worked collaboratively to evaluate the overall performance of the system in a real case and industrially-driven scenario (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Injection moulding machine at Smithers Rapra, UK.

PREVIEW’s four components:
• Data Acquisition System (DAS)
• Wireless Communication Nodes (WCN)
• Advanced Prediction System (APS)
• Location Based Content Delivery (LBCD)
worked together to build the Cyber Physical System (CPS).

The fundamental goal of PREVIEW is to reduce waste, and improve productivity through the smart monitoring, control and optimisation of the injection moulding process. The DAS records cavity and machine signals (temperature, pressure), and they are processed and transferred via wireless communication to a central wireless node that collects the data. This node acts as a centralised server that works in conjunction with the advanced predictive system (APS) which analyses the data, determines process inconsistencies and recommends optimum production parameters that are delivered to the user through a mobile application named the location based content delivery (LBCD).

In this demo trial, all of the PREVIEW subsystems were set up on the first day. The DAS was connected to both: the ARBURG 420C injection moulding machine, and the sensorised mould to read the signals. The DAS interacted properly with the machine and sensor interfaces, timely receiving cavity and machine signals (temperature, pressure). The rate of the data transfer process from the DAS to the WCN was seen to function efficiently, and the main information of the signals was seen to arrive at the node within the first few seconds.

The reach of the wireless network was evaluated by installing an additional node positioned at least 200 meters away from wireless server in the opposite extreme of the production floor. Simulated data incoming from this node was adequately received and processed by the central server node. It was possible to confirm that both WCNs and the server created a robust wireless network (Figure 2) that benefitted from the customised communication protocol to prioritise information and communicate effectively with the APS.

The optimum parameters of the injection moulding process were established and a Design of Experiment (DoE) was designed based on the following parameters: injection speed (cm3/s), injection pressure (bar) and holding pressure (bar). This was done to identify any deviations that could pose a risk in part quality to feedback into the APS system.

Figure 2 – Robust Wireless Network.

On the second day, the connection between the DAS-WCNs-CMS-APS was checked again to ensure the whole PREVIEW system loop was working smoothly. The DoE was conducted, and throughout these runs the DAS was able to acquire and display digital data coming from the machine and cavity signals that projected the corresponding plot deviations resulting from the changes of the injection speed, injection pressure, and holding pressure.

In Figures 3 and 4 two examples are presented of the observed changes in injection speed and holding pressure, respectively, as obtained from the data captured by the DAS. These results prove the adaptability and capability of the DAS to accurately monitor the changes in injection moulding parameters. The quality of the produced parts, in addition to any production defect (e.g. flash, flow mark, shrinkage etc.) was monitored and visually inspected by the operator. Part dimensionality and weight were also measured for the purpose of quality control.

On the third day, after completion of the training process for establishing the production parameters in the APS, this subsystem was evaluated and it was corroborated it could effectively monitor the injection moulding process, providing part quality classification and recommendations to secure optimum set-up. All this information was easily retrieved remotely by the user through the location based content delivery mobile application. In addition to classifying the quality of parts (e.g. good/bad), the APS was capable of assisting the user in identifying the type of defect, which was seen to greatly improve the quality control process by guiding the operator into what to specifically look for.

Figure 3 – DAS identifies the changes in injection speed during demo trial.

Figure 4 – DAS identifies the changes in holding pressure during demo trial.

The whole third day was focused on running the system autonomously, e.g. as in full scale production trial, and monitoring the stability, smoothness and performance of both: the individual subsystems, and the PREVIEW system as a whole. The overall observation from the partners was that PREVIEW can work smoothly in an industrial production scale environment. Yet another successful trial for the PREVIEW Project team after spending more than two and a half years on the development of an inclusive, innovative and smart technological system.


PREVIEW Attends ICCCN

The PREVIEW project went international on 31st July – 2nd August 2017 when Humboldt University, a partner from the PREVIEW consortium attended the ICCCN in Vancouver, Canada.

Roman Naumann, Computer Engineer at PREVIEW partner Humboldt University of Berlin attended the ICCCN, The International Conference on Computer Communications and Networks Conference, presenting a paper to the Conference. This paper, titled TANDEM: Prioritizing Wireless Communication for Robust Industrial Process Control Presentation session: Wireless Network focused on the PREVIEW industrial wireless network developed by the partners.

This paper was one of just 25% to be accepted into the main conference out of all submissions from across the globe, owing to the innovative technological development of the PREVIEW sub-system.

This conference was the 26th International Conference on Computer Communications and Networks.

ICCCN is one of the leading international conferences for presenting novel ideas and fundamental advances in the fields of computer communications and networks. ICCCN serves to foster communication among researchers and practitioners with a common interest in improving communications and networking through scientific and technological innovation. The primary focus of the conference is on new and original research results in the areas of design, implementation, and applications of computer communications and networks.

Authors of the paper: Roman Naumann, Stefan Dietzel, Laura Wartschinski, Ben Schumacher and Björn Scheuermann.


PREVIEW Whitepaper

Andrea Sánchez-Valencia provides an introduction to the PREVIEW project, from its system as a whole to the four sub-systems that make up the project and testimonials on PREVIEW in action. This whitepaper is a perfect introduction for anybody interested in the system as well as discussing the testing that has occurred to ensure that the system functions as required.

To read PREVIEW’s whitepaper and find out more about the PREVIEW system, please visit this page: Click Here

To view the whitepaper direct, please use this link: Click Here to View Whitepaper


Smithers Rapra attended EUPOC (21st-25th May – Gargnano, Lake Garda, Italy)

The main objective of this year’s EUPOC was to focus on the most recent developments within the areas of additive manufacturing. These included: experimental aspects, chemical and physical modelling, materials and part properties, among others. Various techniques for additive manufacturing deposition were discussed: Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Direct Laser Sintering (DLS), Inkjet Printing, Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM). In all, the speakers provided a well-rounded global perspective on novel research for both: techniques and materials used within this field. Most presentations concluded by highlighting the challenges that are yet to be faced. On the latter, it was inevitable to acknowledge the need for the maturity and establishment of testing criteria and standards when testing a rapid-prototyped final product.

PREVIEW was invited as a participant in the poster session. This session, was less focused on the additive manufacturing side, and it was thought as a space for discussion and conversation around polymer materials. In fact, the theme of the posters was varied and well balanced, with entries ranging from instrumentation companies (e.g. Malvern showcasing a new low molecular weight multi-detector GPC system), to European projects with defined targets (e.g. Bio4self –fibre based materials for non-clothing applications-, and PREVIEW). Monday’s session was by far the most popular, and PREVIEW’s posters had around a total of 25 visitors (out of the 100 participants) who actively listened and questioned about the project. The vast majority of these visitors were of mainly informative nature, without posing many questions and having only general curiosity in the posters. Nevertheless, a couple of visitors did show particular interest in the following areas:

1) A company that does compressive moulding, was particularly interested in knowing whether the system could be transferred to this type of manufacturing technique, as he too recognised the need of monitoring process parameters. He provided his business card for future communication.

2) Peter Olmsted, Director of the Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology at the Georgetown University, was particularly interested in the Wi-Fi communication network. His idea, had to do with using sensors strategically positioned in contact with the cone and plate, or parallel plate surface inside a rheometer to extract real-time information of the viscoelastic behaviour of polymer melts. He wanted to know whether this was feasible to achieve using Wi-Fi communication.

3) A third attendee suggested extrapolating the use of intelligent machine systems for medical diagnosis purposes, e.g. access to patients’ profiles and medications doses, to make more efficient the medical service for on-a-regular-basis patients.


PREVIEW pilot test at Promolding

After developing and small-scale testing the several subsystems for over two years, the partners in the European funded PREVIEW project (Horizon 2020) flew in to perform a full scale pilot test with the PREVIEW system at the Dutch partner Promolding.

Eurecat (Spain), Smithers Rapra (United Kingdom) and Humboldt Universität (Germany) took part in this test. Over a period of three days each team member contributed with its own specialisation in testing the system at Promolding’s new production facility.

DAS Promolding

Figure 1: Injection moulding machine with mould with PREVIEW DAS

During the first day (setup phase) three injection moulding machines were equipped with the PREVIEW data acquisition system (DAS, Figure 1). The DAS is a hardware module responsible for the adaption, amplification and digitalisation of the cavity and machine signals. These signals are supplied by cable to the PREVIEW wireless communication nodes (WCN, Figure 2) located at the machines. The nodes transmit the sensor data to the central wireless node which is connected to the PREVIEW server through Ethernet. This server node was installed in a convenient location on the production floor. All nodes together create a robust wireless network which uses a customised protocol. Also the Bluetooth beacons for the location-based content delivery were positioned throughout the production floor (Figure 3).

On the second day (test phase) the several subsystems were tested. This meant testing the data acquisition system by comparing the signals coming from the injection moulding machine and mould sensors, with the data received from the DAS. Several cables and connections were checked. Also the PREVIEW location based system (LBS) was tested. By checking the physical location on the floor with the virtual location on a floor plan displayed on a smart phone, this subsystem could be verified.

WCN

Figure 2: Wireless connection nodes, connected to Ethernet (left) and to DAS (right)

The PREVIEW server, consisting of the advanced predictive system (APS) and the content management system (CMS), and the wireless data transmission were validated by verifying the data reception, processing and storage in the database. The APS is a software algorithm to optimise the injection moulding process by reducing mould set up time and providing a quality control system.

Initially, this test went well, but once more data had been collected the server unexpectedly crashed. After a short period of recuperation from this puzzling situation, four specialists dove deep into the server software and found the stumbling block. The problem was then easily fixed. A true team effort.

In the meantime, to prepare for a life cycle assessment (LCA), some initial measurements of energy consumption of two injection moulding machines were performed, making use of a commercially available energy logger. This data is going to be compared to the data logged through the PREVIEW system to gain insight into the energy savings potentially created by making use of the PREVIEW system.

Beacons

Figure 3: Bluetooth beacons placed in several locations

The third day was available for doing a full scale test, starting with a Design of Experiments on one of the machines involved. With the data obtained, the APS was trained. The moment of truth arrived: Will the smartphone app indicate a variation in the production process and recommend a process parameter modification when we deliberately alter a parameter on that specific machine? This would mean the whole chain from signal source all the way to a message on a smartphone would work. Success! Once the injection speed was lowered, the app effectively proposed to increase the speed. Happy faces after three days of hard work.

Company Information

Promolding, located in The Hague, The Netherlands, is a product development and injection moulding company established in 1997, that focuses on developing and producing high tech products for the industrial, medical and aviation market. Recently its production facilities have expanded from 1575m2 to 3130m2. Also several dedicated project areas for developing, assembling and testing innovative client specific products, were built up.
With a production force of 12 people (including trial moulders, machine operators, material preparation, assembly and logistics), 12 injection moulding machines ranging from 15T to 800T, dozens of moulds and several materials are prepared and handled for production.
In total Promolding employs 40 people.

Promolding Pano

Figure 4: Part of Promolding’s production facilities where the PREVIEW pilot test was performed


UBER to attend ICCCN 2017

ICCCN-Logohuzb

 

The 26th International Conference on Computer Communications and Networks (ICCCN 2017) is an IEEE co-sponsored communication systems conference. The ICCCN is one of the leading international conferences for presenting novel ideas and breakthroughs in the fields of computer communications and networks. The primary focus of this year’s ICCCN is on new and original research in the areas of design, implementation and applications of computer communications and networks.

Out of all submissions, only the top 25% papers were accepted for the main technical program. Major results of the PREVIEW wireless system were accepted for publication and will appear in the conference proceedings and IEEE Xplore. Roman Naumann will give a presentation as part of the conference’s Wireless LAN, Ad Hoc and Mesh Networks (WAM) session. Roman’s presentation introduces TANDEM, a Topology-independent wireless multi-hop network protocol that implements the prioritization of in-network data to provide a more useful, timely and efficient wireless transmission protocol for the delivery of network information in manufacturing plants, where interference due to metal surroundings and factory floor topology can pose great challenges.

ICCCN 2017 will take place July 31 – August 3, 2017, Vancouver, Canada.


Smithers Rapra to attend EUPOC 2017

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The title for this year’s EUPOC is: “Polymers and Additive Manufacturing: from fundamentals to applications”. The conference aims at showcasing various areas of additive manufacturing for polymer parts, e.g. experimental aspects, identification of technological bottlenecks, modelling of chemical and physical aspects of additive processes, material-related issues and part properties.

Although PREVIEW is a system mainly developed for injection moulding, it shares some similarities with fundamental 3D printing technologies where end-products are built using layer-by-layer deposition (i.e. fuse deposition modelling) of extruded polymer via a nozzle.

PREVIEW will be contributing to the conference’s poster session with two posters emphasising on the energy calculations using data acquired via cavity sensors, and a second entry describing PREVIEW’s core elements: the DAS, APS and wireless technology. The idea is to evaluate the feasibility of extrapolating any of these components into new manufacturing processes other than injection moulding, i.e. additive manufacturing.

Click below to view the PREVIEW posters.


Energy in Injection Moulding

Nowadays identifying the environmental footprint of products and processes is of great importance to determine if they are viable in the long term, or whether they will have negative impacts to human health, non-renewable resources, animals, etc. One way to assess a process is to identify the energy sources and energy amounts that are required to fulfil this. As a very basic definition, energy can be defined as the property that must be transferred to an object to perform work. This means that for an injection machine to function adequately, electrical energy must be transformed into heat and mechanical energies. In the past few years a lot of attention has been given to determine the energy associated with all the various steps in injection moulding. The usual trend observed is that melting of the polymer and clamping of the mould are the steps with the higher energetic contribution.

Table 1. Energy breakdown in percentages for injection moulding of different products (Thiriez, 2006).

Product Melting Injection Clamping Ejector Idle Heaters Cycle time [s]
Dairy container 53% 8% 27% 0% 0% 15% 6.45
Medical Syring 46% 5% 8% 2% 29% 15% 23.1
Pail 50% 10% 13% 0% 15% 11% 18.25
Closure 66% 7% 12% 3% 0% 12% 16.75

 

The energy can be calculated directly from the monitoring of the equipment’s electrical signal, or alternatively from the cavity’s pressure and temperature information. One of PREVIEW’s main advantages is the fact that real-time data can be obtained directly from the mould, and hence can provide essential information for the calculation of energy consumption estimates.

Bibliography

Thiriez, A. (2006, May). An Environmental Analysis of Injection Moulding. Thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Massachusetts, Cambridge, United States of America: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.