Material Development in Digital Age. AKRO-PLASTIC GmbH ‒ the specialist for innovative and application-orientated plastics compounds ‒ invited guests to Niederzissen, Germany, to participate in the twelfth KUNSTSTOFF-DIA(hr)LOG® conference on 15 and 16 May 2018. Under the banner of “Material development in the digital age”, the company welcomed 131 guests from 13 nations at its plant this year.
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Following his welcome address, Leander Bergmann, Head of Marketing at AKRO-PLASTIC and event host, gave a vivid demonstration of the company’s development in recent years. AKRO-PLASTIC has two locations in Niederzissen, Germany, since masterbatches are produced at its branch AF-COLOR. The compounder also has a production plant in China and in Brazil, providing a global production capacity of over 180 000 tonnes per year using identical production technology. This technology was developed in collaboration with sister company FEDDEM GmbH & Co. KG, Sinzig, and has been on the market under the name of ICX®-Technology for one and a half years.
The multimedia room at AKRO-PLASTIC GmbH in Niederzissen was filled to the last spot.
Mr Bergmann also provided a prospective look at investments planned for 2018:
In the third quarter of 2018, the first LFT production line will go into operation at the Niederzissen location. During this same period, a second compounding line will begin production at the plant in Brazil. In the second half of the year, the compounder also plans to begin operating a third production line for the product portfolio of its BIO-FED branch. And plans are in place to expand production in China in late 2018 and early 2019.
Mr Bergmann also informed the participants about a partnership with Poland-based Grupa Azoty Compounding (GAC), initiated at the start of the year for the purpose of setting up a compounding plant in Tarnow, Poland. “This is an expertise and consulting contract through which AKRO-PLASTIC will assist and advise GAC until production is under way”, explained Bergmann.
Mr Bergmann’s address was followed by a number of interesting, discussion-provoking presentations.
In his talk entitled “Optimisation with a digital twin”, Dr Volker Gorzelitz from M.TEC Ingenieurgesellschaft für kunststofftechnische Produktentwicklung mbH shed light on the available technology for developing components with digital assistance. “Component development is no longer haphazard. Every parameter that affects the subsequent component is defined in this process, so that the process can be executed automatically.
The individual parameters can be moved within the defined limits, as on a mixing console; the result is immediately visible on the screen, and even the smallest variations have a large impact”, explained Dr Gorzelitz. He also demonstrated how this process can also be applied to material development. He also demonstrated how this process can also be applied to material development.
"Component development is no longer haphazard."
Dr. Volker GorzelitzM.TEC Ingenieurgesellschaft für kunststofftechnische Produktentwicklung mbH
In his talk on high-voltage plug-in connectors, Martin Wolter from Kostal Kontakt Systeme GmbH then showed a real-world example in which digital assistance had already been used. He explained in detail the increasing requirements for plastic in the growing market of high-voltage plug-in connectors.
“The future will require that we produce smaller, more powerful components, the demand for which will continue to rise steadily, particularly abroad”, said Wolter.
"The future will require that we produce smaller, more powerful components ..."
Martin WolterKostal Kontakt Systeme GmbH
Following this, Thilo Stier, Innovation and Sales Director at AKRO-PLASTIC, and his colleague Cyprian Golebiewski, Head of Application Engineering, provided details in their presentation on AKROMID® LGF and AKROMID® PST and the ongoing development of current product lines at AKRO-PLASTIC.
Mr Stier gave in-depth information on the LFT line mentioned in Mr Bergmann’s introduction and the advantages of kneading-unit free technology, which produces an extremely high-quality granulate. He also explained the various ways to modify the long glass fibre compound, which can achieve weight reductions of up to 15 percent compared with conventional short fibre compounds, without harming the mechanical properties.
Stier emphasized, however, that LGF compounds are not an easy drop-in solution, noting that the component must also be designed for long glass fibres. Stier concluded with a prospective look at additive manufacturing and AKRO-PLASTIC’s view on the subject based on the new MDM (Melt Deposition Modelling) process developed by IKV, in which more highly reinforced, granulate-based materials are used. Not only are these significantly more appealing in terms of cost compared with pigment- or filament-based systems, they also make the process up to 20 times faster than filament systems because the carbon fibres used by AKRO have an extremely high cooling capacity.
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Mr Golebiewski’s presentation on the status quo of plasma coating served as a bridge to the practical demonstration on the Plasma-SealTight® pilot facility that followed in the pilot plant station. He explained how AKRO-PLASTIC had partnered with Plasmatreat to develop the optimal material for this process. He also showed where a metal-plastic alloy can be used to greatest advantage‒in weight-bearing structural components and anywhere leak-tightness is important, such as connectors–and provided an overview of numerous experiments that have already been conducted with various types of metal. The participants then had an opportunity to see the optimised Plasma SealTight process in action on location in the AKRO Competence Center.
Practical demonstration of the Plasma-SealTight® process in the AKRO Competence Center.
On the second day, Dr Oliver Neuß, R & D Director at AKRO-PLASTIC, opened the event with the question “Where is the boundary between PA 6 and PA 6.6?” He explained why PA 6.6 is so scarce and so expensive and presented possible ways to replace this material. “It is first important to find out why PA 6.6 is currently being used for certain applications”, said Dr Neuß.
He frequently found that this material simply had “always” been used, and because of these good experiences no one had ever thought of changing it. He provided telling examples of how a PA 6 can be modified using various development directions to obtain certain comparable properties in a PA 6.6 and encouraged the audience to consider changing materials.
Mr Maiko Ersch from IKV (Institute for Plastics Processing in Industry and Skilled Crafts at RWTH Aachen University) subsequently addressed the topic of digitisation in his talk entitled “Structural simulation of injection-moulded LFT” and described the challenge of fibre orientation and curvature in computer simulation. The key here is knowing that the length of the fibres affects the mechanical properties. Mr Ersch presented various measuring methods and simulation models in his talk. He also made it clear that research on the effects of fibre curvature is still in its infancy, and that more research is needed. New approaches and concepts must be taken into account here.
Christian Staudigel from SKZ gave a talk on the digital transformation in plastics processing and its effects on practical applications. Everyone is talking about Industry 4.0, and the smart factory has become a fixture even in plastic injection moulding. One trend is moving away from mass production and towards mass customisation. He provided numerous examples from industry to back this up. Additive manufacturing plays a key role here, since it breaks the link between design and production, resulting in a new customer relationship, particularly in the consumer goods market. Industry 4.0 is a form of digitisation that is increasingly defining both our private and professional spheres.
"The process and business models will change, but the most important thing is to take your employees along with you on this road".
Christian StaudigelSKZ Plastics Centre
“Recalls, warranty and claims” are topics that unfortunately come up again and again, and can lead to a great deal of uncertainty in the supplier chain due to incomplete knowledge. Finally, the attorneys Axel Löhde and Torge Rademacher from Watson Farley & Williams provided an overview of the legal bases. Today increasing numbers of vehicle models are appearing on the market in a shorter time frame. And this means less time to develop these models, resulting in a significant increase in recalls. Whereas 5,452 vehicles were recalled in 1995, in 2016 that number stood at 4.2 million, with an average damage value of EUR 12.4 million.
Mr Löhde presented the various types of recalls in which there is a legal obligation to initiate a recall only in the event that personal injury could occur. OEMs would like to transfer the risks to their suppliers and therefore try to incorporate all types of clauses into the contract language in order to achieve this. Not all of these are effective, however, and legal liability must be assumed due to Germany’s General Terms and Conditions Act (GTBC), as explained in detail by the attorneys.
The “Material development in the digital age” theme was examined through a broad range of individual topics. Certain topics, not directly related to digitisation, had more of a subsequent relationship to the topic. “We wanted to rise to the challenge of giving all participants, who fulfil various roles in different companies, individual ideas and issues for consideration”, said Leander Bergmann.
The event host evidently succeeded, since the guests thanked him at the end with a hand-written thank you note.
The next DIA(hr)LOG will be on the 14th and 15th of May 2019.