Nothing reflect the mood of an industry like a tradeshow, and if last week’s Interplas, the triennial British plastics trade show traditionally held at the NEC in Birmingham, was anything to go by, the plastics industry is very much alive and kicking.
The exhibitors represent the entire plastics supply chain, from raw materials and machinery manufacturers to compounders, recyclers and converters.
The onward automation trend was also apparent; among the exhibitors is a newcomer to the UK market – LeaderMES – developed by Israel-based Emerald Information systems – whose MES system is specifically designed for SMEs, said CEO Amir Aloni. “It’s a secure, cloud-based, digital manufacturing platform that can handle everything from planning & scheduling, through all production stages and work procedures, all the way to the warehouse,” he emphasized. “We provide a comprehensive production management solution, that’s intuitive, and can be assembled, brick by brick, just like Lego.”
At the Fanuc stand, the company’s signature 6-axis delta robots were on display. Fanuc, said Andrew Armstrong, marketing manager, currently produces 6000 robots a month and “12,000 next year: capacity is being expanded,” he told Plastics News Europe. He added that 50-70% of the machines today are sold with some kind of automation, as the cost effectiveness of automation continues to increase. More and more customers are looking for manufacturing cells rather than machines alone. “And business is extremely good, with September being the best month to date, a record.” According to Armstrong, one of the key differentiators is CNC system inside all Fanuc’s product, which, he said, constantly monitors ‘every motion of every motor’. “We have around 65% of the machine tool market - Fanuc’s control system is in the products of many manufacturers.
There was more automation at the St?ubli stand – the company’s the fully automated, Industry 4.0 Quick Mould Change system, which debuted at the K Show last year, was on show in the UK for the first time. A key part of the system is the preheating station, where the moulds are preheated prior to being transported via the rail-guided transport system to the mounting table, for placement in the injection moulding machine. This enables processors to ready the mould in parallel with ongoing production. The system can cut mould change times to as little as a minute – “producing part-to-part”, said Lawrence Wood, business development manager UK and Ireland. “It’s a completely intelligent system.” One remarkable aspect about the demo: there was no guard around the cell, despite the big robot handling the moulds. “It’s a collaborative robot,” said Wood. “But we didn’t have to change the robot, we changed how it interacts with the environment, simply by installing a sensor. If the sensor senses the presence of a person close to the robot, the robot stops working. If that person moves a little farther away, it start working but at very low speed. Only whether there is no longer anyone within reach of the robot will is go back to working a full speed.”
At the Sepro stand, the newest addition to the company’s range of 6-axis articulated-arm robots was launched and could be seen for the first time doing a flirty, well- choreographed ‘dance of the robots’ throughout the three days of the show. The new Sepro Yaskawa 6X-140 offers heavy load capacity, and a large radius of operation for automotive and general automation applications and is designed to serve moulding machines with 80-200 tons of clamping force.
The injection moulding machine manufacturers were all out in full force, clearly demonstrating that the trend of “smarter” machines, production and service continues to gain momentum. Electric machines are also on the rise: KraussMaffei chose Interplas for the UK launch of their new all-electric PX series; customers were definitely interested, said managing director Michael Bate. Sumitomo Demag had its new IntElect 2 machine on the stand; the machine is “another step towards closing the price gap between electric and hydraulic machines, said Nigel Flowers, MD of Sumitomo Demag in the UK. Interplas was also Negri Bossi’s first UK showing of its new ELE180 all-electric machine, available from 50 to 350 tonnes, and equipped with the latest ‘Tactum’ multi-touch controller.
For Engel UK, the show finished successfully with an order for 3 e-Victory tie-bar-less hybrid machines from Forteq UK.
Ancillary equipment supplier Summit Systems, present with the full range of material and product handling equipment, officially launched its new temperature control division at Interplas. Managing director Mike Jordan said he was extremely happy with the new partnership with Frigel. “I have always admired their products, which are really excellent,” he said, “so I am very happy to be working with them on this latest expansion of our existing portfolio.”
The highlight at the Piovan stand was a live demonstration of the company’s Winfactory 4.0, their process control and management software based on the Industry 4.0 guidelines. The system uses OPC – UA, ensuring the Piovan machines can communicate with the machines of other manufacturers and can interface directly with the management system at the individual plant as well as the company network. At the stand, the system was connected to a company in Cornwall, offering a live display of the remote monitoring possibilities available.