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With the Euromap 77 interface, based on OPC UA, the injection moulding machinery manufacturers develop an important precondition for Industry 4.0.

Frankfurt, 27 September 2017 The trend to individualisation changes the manufacturing processes. It must be possible to adapt the production faster and to adjust it more flexibly, so that also in mass production, the manufacturing of a single, customised part can be done economically, if necessary. Furthermore, the central quality control becomes increasingly important. The precondition for this is digitalisation that means, the connectivity of individual parts of the production, and the communication of the various machines and components with each other.
Differing interface standards are still hindering the use of digitalisation to its full capacity for the production in many industries. A production machine of a specific manufacturer cannot easily be connected over the master computer, or the Manufacturing Execution System (MES), with the machine of another manufacturer. Unless both manufacturers agreed on a shared interface with the customer in advance. The plastics processors, which are the customers of the machine manufacturers, are therefore very limited in the connectivity of their different production facilities. The effort for the implementation of Industry 4.0 is big and its planning often gets stuck in the early stage.

Injection moulding machine manufacturers amongst the first movers
As one of the first industries, the European injection moulding machine manufacturers, lead-managed by the VDMA, have come together and worked on an internationally uniform interface for the exchange of data between the injection moulding machines and master computers or MES, the Euromap 77. This was presented last autumn at the industries leading technology fair K in Düsseldorf. A demonstrator showed concretely how several machines that were set up in different halls exchanged data with each other. Euromap 77 is based on the communications standard OPC Unified Architecture (OPC-UA), which has been established by the non-commercial OPC foundation and has already been used in many industries as the basis for the communication between machines of different manufacturers. The independent industry association also was involved as a consultant in the development of Euromap 77. The big advantage of OPC UA is that it is manufacturer independent. Also, the competitors amongst each other. OPC UA is a technology that is available to everyone and is not dependent on a control unit manufacturer. This manufacturer independency is a main reason why OPC UA is increasingly becoming the standard of Industry 4.0, says Jürgen Peters, head of the software development department at Arburg.

Second version of Euromap 77 available

In September 2017, Euromap 77 released a second so-called Release Candidate, i.e. a sort of beta version, and, therefore can be accessed by anyone. Transparency is very important to us at this point to gain a broad acceptance amongst the machine manufacturers and the software providers, as well as the users, says Dr. Harald Weber who leads the technical Euromap working groups. All big injection moulding machine manufacturers were involved in the development of the new interface in the European umbrella association Euromap: Besides Arburg, also Engel, Ferromatik Milacron, Krauss Maffei, Netstal, Negri Bossi, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag and Wittmann Battenfeld. As manufacturers of injection moulding machines, it is important to us to define a new technological standard together with further providers. This ensures that not every manufacturer has to develop costly and time-consuming customer-specific interface solutions. The other big advantage for the customer is that the products of different providers speak the same language, says Peters. It is a win-win situation for all companies involved in the process. For MES manufacturers, Euromap 77 offers the big benefit that a machine that supports the standard can be connected via plug & play and deliver a reliable basic set of information with which the basic MES functions can be represented, says Alexander Koblinger, technical managing director at MES provider T.I.G.

Further interfaces for plastics and rubber machinery in progress

The Euromap 77 is just the beginning. It is already being worked on a further interface - the Euromap 79. It is supposed to establish a secure connection between injection moulding machines and robots. The biggest challenge there is to make some signals available in real-time, so that it does not come to collisions between the machine and the moving robot. Since OPC UA itself is not capable of real-time, it uses Time Sensitive Networks (TSN). However, it will not stop at Euromap 79. The demand for standardised interfaces is big at machine manufacturers as well as plastics processors, says Dr Weber. The connection of periphery devices is already in the planning, for material flow control and for extrusion facilities. Therefore, recycling specialist Erema is observing the development of Euromap 77. Euromap 77 does not affect us immediately. However, interfaces are defined with it, which will then help us with the implementation of the Euromap 84 in the area of extrusion machines, so that we can be involved first-hand. If it is about technological advancement, we want to be in pole position as the technology leader in recycling, says Stefan Heitzinger, CTO at Erema.

The growing number of interfaces finally requires a uniform, superordinate structure. It is worked on such a structure already, so that the interfaces for different plastics and rubber machinery will follow a unified pattern.

A list with the running projects can be downloaded under www.euromap.org/i40.

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