For Arburg, the exclusive partner at the Additive Manufacturing Plaza, the Hanover Fair 2015 was an unqualified success. The innovative machine builder from Germany’s Black Forest has been working in the area of Industry 4.0 for some time now and, with to its automated Allrounder injection moulding machines, its Freeformer for industrial additive manufacturing and IT solutions, is increasingly developing into a system supplier for integrated production in the digital factory of tomorrow. At the world’s biggest industrial fair, Arburg presented a fully integrated process chain that allowed visitors to personalise a rocker-type light switch, producing a genuine “one-off” product.

“We presented the technology of the future at the Hanover Fair 2015 and obviously put our finger on the pulse. We created quite a stir, gaining enormous interest in our products and generating plenty of customer inquiries. We hoped we would do well, but this has vastly exceeded our expectations,” said Arburg Managing Partner Juliane Hehl , who added: “As an exclusive partner in the Additive Manufacturing Plaza, we have convincingly shown ourselves as a system provider for integrated production, demonstrating what we are capable of in collaboration with outstanding partners. Trade visitors were simply blown away by our process chain and the practical implementation of Industry 4.0 principles.”

Complete process chain on show

Arburg has been a familiar name in the plastics industry for decades, as an innovative, internationally active and reliable manufacturer of top quality injection moulding machines, also developing and building the associated controllers. The ALS, Arburgs’s host computer system, registers machine, operating, setting and order data, processes it and forwards it to other machines. This means that several machines and the production process can be efficiently controlled, documented and tracked at the same time. In addition, the Freeformer, a completely new system for industrial additive manufacturing, is also available. Trade visitors witness how this all comes together in a live demonstration in der Additive Manufacturing Plaza, based on the example of a rocker-type light switch. The process encompassed recording orders and injection moulding, industrial additive manufacturing and automatic packaging of the personalised products, and ended with the display of the process parameters on a part-specific web page.

Additive manufacturing increases added value

“Our concept for using additive manufacturing to increase added value and to turn a normal high-volume part into something quite unique met with a very positive response,” summarised Arburg’s Managing Director Technology & Engineering, Heinz Gaub. “Our exhibits at the Hanover Fair have offered concrete proof of how the Freeformer can fit seamlessly into an automated production cell. On the other hand, we also showed that it is also suitable for finishing high-volume parts.”

The machine technology for additive manufacturing and the injection moulding of high-volume products, as well as the networking of processes via a host computer system, all originated from Arburg. In addition to Gira (product and mould construction), other project partners were Trumpf (lettering applied to parts by laser), Fuchs Engineering (quality checks) and Fpt Robotik (Automation).

Industry 4.0 up close

The process chain began with a CAD workstation at the product design station. There, visitors could see that the Freeformer is an important tool for product developers when it comes to producing a prototype quickly from STL data. Many visitors took the opportunity to produce a personalised light switch, created for demonstration purposes. The Arburg host computer system recorded all the relevant process data and transferred then to a web server. It was then possible to choose a personal symbol and name combination at a PC station. The order data was stored on an RFID chip card. After the data was read in, an Allrounder injection moulding machine produced the actual light switch and an individual DM code was immediately applied by laser. The part data was linked to the production machines by means of a cloud. This means that the code applied to the part turned it into an information carrier, controlling its progress through the process chain automatically. The DM code is particularly robust and cannot drop off or be deleted. This is important in practice with airbags and other safety-related parts for the automotive industry or in medical technology – for example for prostheses that are tailored to the individual patient through additive manufacturing.

At the next station, a Freeformer personalised the light switch by applying plastic to produce the pre-selected motifs in an additive process. Next came visual quality control using camera inspection and the individual packaging of the part. Using the QR code printed on the packaging, visitors were able to use a smartphone to retrieve all the process data for “their” part on a part-specific web page. The web application means that the data will be available for long after the exhibition has closed.