The role of the digital twin in raw material handling in the injection molding process: A step towards Industry 4.0

In today's industrial landscape, which is increasingly characterized by digitalization and automation, the digital twin plays a central role. Especially in the field of injection molding, the use of digital twins offers immense advantages to increase efficiency, quality and flexibility. In this blog post, we highlight the importance of the digital twin in the context of interoperable injection molding production and present the results of the InterOpera project, in which we were involved as a partner.

 

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The vision of Industry 4.0 and the importance of the administration shell

The fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, is striving for a networked and interoperable value chain. In this context, all elements, known as assets, communicate with each other as autonomously as possible in order to make production processes efficient and resilient. An asset can be both a physical object (such as a machine) and a virtual entity (such as software or a document). To enable this efficient communication, assets must be defined and represented uniformly in the virtual world. This is where the asset administration shell comes into play, which serves as a concrete implementation of a digital twin and is currently in the standardization process (IEC 63278)

Features IDTA

Functions and advantages of the asset administration shell

The fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, is striving for a networked and interoperable value chain. In this context, all elements, known as assets, communicate with each other as autonomously as possible in order to make production processes efficient and resilient. An asset can be both a physical object (such as a machine) and a virtual entity (such as software or a document). To enable this efficient communication, assets must be defined and represented uniformly in the virtual world. This is where the asset administration shell comes into play, which serves as a concrete implementation of a digital twin and is currently in the standardization process (IEC 63278)

Structure of the asset administration shell submodels

The asset administration shell submodels have a modular structure and consist of several submodels (SM) and SubmodelElementCollections (SMC), which describe the various properties of an asset. Each submodel contains specific characteristics that are described by metadata in accordance with IEC 61360-1. These characteristics can be used in different contexts and can be extended by company-specific characteristics if required.

Injection molding features
Exemplary submodels for the injection molding machine

Technical data (SM Technical Data):

    • Clamping unit (SMC Clamping Unit):
      • Maximum possible clamping force (MaxClampingForce)
      • Distances between the columns (SmallerClearDistBtwColumns, LargerClearDistBtwColumns)
    • Dimensions (SMC Dimensions):
      • Dimensions for mold clamping (SmallerMoldDimension, LargerMoldDimension)
      • Required clamping force (RequiredClampingForce)

Mold mounting (SMC Mold Mounting):

    • Small and large distances between the columns (SmallerClearDistBtwColumns, LargerClearDistBtwColumns)

Temperature control unit (SM Temperature Control Unit):

    • Technical features for temperature control and monitoring

    Added value of the standardized administration shells

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    Clear identification and interpretation:

    Standardized asset administration shells enable the unique identification and uniform interpretation of the characteristics of injection moulding assets worldwide. This facilitates the automated search for suitable assets and the correct interpretation of their characteristics.

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    Automated production planning:

    By comparing the technical requirements of a component with the data of the injection molding machines and tools, production planning can be automated and accelerated. This enables a data-based selection of the best machine/mold combination and promotes flexibility and resilience in production.

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    Efficient master data management:

    The use of standardized administration shells leads to accelerated master data management. Automatic data transfer and reconciliation eliminates the need for manual input, which increases data quality and reduces errors.

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    Interoperability and seamless data exchange:

    The standardized features enable seamless data exchange between different assets without the need for prior data conversion. This is particularly important for companies with a heterogeneous machine park.

    The AASX Package Explorer: A tool for administration and visualization

    AASX Package Explorer

    The AASX Package Explorer is a central tool for working with asset administration shells. This free tool, developed by Plattform Industrie 4.0, enables users to open, create, edit and visualize asset administration shells. The AASX Package Explorer supports the AASX file format, which was specially developed for the asset administration shells.

    With the AASX Package Explorer, users can view and edit the structure and characteristics of the asset administration shells in detail. For example, the maximum clamping force of an injection molding machine can be entered as a characteristic and provided with the corresponding metadata. This enables comprehensive and detailed documentation of the technical properties of an asset. The AASX Package Explorer thus offers a user-friendly interface for efficiently managing and customizing the asset administration shells.

     

    Concrete applications and outlook

     

    The asset administration shell submodels for the injection moulding domain developed in the InterOpera project are published as IDTA specifications and serve as a blueprint for the creation of standardized asset instances. Machine and system manufacturers can use these models to quickly and efficiently convert their production systems into digital twins and thus create the basis for fully networked and automated production.

    Future work will focus on the further development and standardization of additional domain-specific submodels, including those that take into account legal requirements and security regulations. Another focus will be on actively providing the features and services of the asset administration shells in the value network.

    Partner injection molding digital twin

    Important links and resources

    Conclusion

    The results of the InterOpera project show how important standardized administration shells are for implementing the vision of Industry 4.0. They form the basis for efficient and interoperable manufacturing and contribute to the digitalization and automation of production processes. Standardized administration shells enable unique identification, efficient data management and seamless integration into existing production processes. As a partner in this project, we are proud to have made a contribution to this important development. With the further development and standardization of additional submodels and the active provision of asset administration shells in the value creation network, the digital twin will continue to play a central role in the modern manufacturing landscape.

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