The integration of temperature control and other peripheral devices in communication networks offers considerable advantages for plastics processors, among others. This is why this still young technology will prevail. Applying the OPC UA standard via the interfaces defined by EUROMAP is the high road to the smart factory.
Networking is the central trend in the organisation of production processes in markets of the plastics and die-casting industry. One of the core elements of the future smart factory is that data is collected, evaluated, related, documented and visualised throughout the entire production process. To achieve this, it must first be ensured that all the devices and systems involved communicate with each other at all levels. This is precisely the task of the network. Another core idea of digitisation is that the machine data collected in the network is also passed on to higher-level IT systems (MES, ERP, PPS, ...).
The advantages of such an information structure are obvious: All peripheral machines and systems involved in the production process communicate with each other. In injection moulding, for example, granulate conveying and supply, temperature control and workpiece removal are thus integrated into the communication network. This enables process optimization in real time and leads to higher productivity, less downtime, optimised machine utilisation and improved product quality. The same applies, of course, to the die-casting sector.
Since temperature control is a key process variable in the die-casting and injection molding process that influences both productivity and product quality, a manufacturer of temperature control units must ask himself: How can the units be connected to such networks? Which standards should be used? How is the integration actually implemented?
The question of which standards to use can be answered easily. The European plastics and rubber machinery association EUROMAP has already developed standards for the integration of peripheral equipment such as handling systems (EUROMAP 79), material supply and drying (EUROMAP 82.2) and temperature control units (EUROMAP 82.1) in accordance with OPC UA. Such a standard also exists for the superordinate connection, for example to MES systems (EUROMAP 77). Further standards will follow in other industries such as die casting.
OPC UA provides automation technology with a cross-sector "world language" that standardises data exchange between machines and industrial communication in general and – in terms of Industry 4.0 – allows interoperability between products from different manufacturers. This applies not only to the devices, but also to the components that are built into the devices.
REGLOPLAS has dealt with this standard at an early stage and considers the use of OPC UA as the "silver bullet" for the integration of temperature control units in the smart factories of the future. The developers have therefore created an architecture that allows the devices to be integrated into this network.
The prerequisite for this is an integrated OPC UA server in the control systems of the temperature control units. It can be integrated into both the proven RT100 control unit and the new RT200 control system.
The new RT 200 control system (Fig. 1) creates transparency in the temperature control process. Its high-resolution widescreen display (5" TFT) with graphical user interface allows for intuitive device operation. Depending on the model, several interfaces are available as standard, including Ethernet, USB, WLAN, Bluetooth and OPC UA.
In 2019, REGLOPLAS demonstrated publicly for the first time the practical advantages of the network capability of temperature control units via OPC UA. A data server visualises all relevant data of the temperature control units, such as temperature, volume flow, pressures and operating mode. This is another step on the way to the smart factory for end user markets such as automotive, pharmaceutical, food and electronics.