When it comes to the introduction of industry 4.0 applications, many suppliers are currently still holding back in the field of forming technology. However, interesting new developments and solutions for digitised and connected forming already exist.
Digital change does not stop at any industry. Step by step, Industry 4.0 is expanding. What was a vision of the future a few years ago is already a reality in many areas today. Forming technology is also changing as a result of increasing digitisation and interconnection. However, many suppliers are still cautious about the concrete implementation. The implementation of a connected Industry 4.0 environment is usually associated with high investment costs. At the same time, the amount of data generated is enormous. Only with a targeted analysis of this data can the company ultimately generate added value for itself. For companies, this means to react to the requirements for appropriate tools and trained personnel.
However, the digital and connected production can help companies to increase their efficiency and cut costs. Within the framework of Industry 4.0, for example, processes can be automated and made more transparent. At the same time, increased flexibility ensures that suppliers can meet the individual customer requirements better. Additionally, they can respond to changes in the market much quicker. Intelligent monitoring solutions enable predictive maintenance. Those who invest in digitisation and connected processes at an early stage can possibly gain a competitive advantage.
Transparent processes and high flexibility
The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology, for example, shows how Industry 4.0 can be implemented in the field of forming technology. The institute has developed a compact-format press for demonstration purposes. It was presented for the first time at this year's Hannover Messe and was also on display at Euroblech 2018. The press permanently and in real time monitors the condition of its own hardware, but also the starting material, the forming process and finally the quality of the components it produces. A digital twin of the machine and process is generated via sensor data from the machine structure and tool, ensuring transparency in all production-relevant processes.
Trumpf, for example, has developed Truconnect, a range of solutions for the intelligent factory (Smart Factory). With Truconnect, the supplier wants to support companies on their way to connected and smart production that can meet the increasing demands for smaller batch sizes, for example. The aim is to improve the entire value chain. Particular attention will be paid to indirect processes. These are decisive for competitiveness, as Florian Langer, head of Truconnect at Trumpf, reported in May at a conference titled “Recent developments in sheet metal forming”. Indirect processes account for around 80 % of the throughput time, while only 20 % is accounted for by the actual processing.
Application examples and solution offerings
The Mobile Bending Cell from Bystronic, for example, takes account of the increasing demand for flexible production. The bending cell consists of two parts - a press brake and a mobile bending robot. Complex small series can be produced manually with the device, large series automatically. Mathias Hasecke, Managing Director at supplier Ha-Beck, has been using the Mobile Bending Cell in his company since 2017. “The trend is clearly towards bending automation,” Hasecke told ETMM's partner magazine MM Maschinenmarkt in August.
Will the Smart Factory still need employees in the future?
All in all, the increasing automation in the course of Industry 4.0 raises the question of the future role of employees. Against this background, the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft für Produktionstechnik (Scientific Society for Production Technology) has developed a position paper on the industrial workplace 2025. 120 machine tool manufacturers and operators were surveyed. The scientists used the results of the survey to define automation levels for production. In this way, companies should be able to obtain a kind of benchmark for their degree of automation. They are also enabled to recognise whether there is any need for action. After all, automation is not meaningful or necessary everywhere. However, the future production plants assumably will take over their optimisation and that of the associated processes increasingly themselves, according to Prof. Bernd-Arno Behrens, one of the scientists involved in the study and head of the Institute for Forming Technology and Forming Machines at Leibniz University Hanover. “Nevertheless, we believe that, even in the smart factory of the future, people will still be able to make their dreams come true in the long run.”