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Distributor drives future solutions in automotive industry

JC JONKER Artificial intelligence is a big driver of global restructuring in terms of addressing shortages of critical skills, especially in the automotive industry

MOULDING THE FUTURE ENGEL engineers and developers have significantly reduced the power consumption of its injection moulding machines

28th July 2023

By: Bridget Lepere

Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Plastics machinery and ancillary equipment provider GreenTech Plastics Machinery says its injection-moulding machines can now incorporate recyclable materials when manufacturing various parts and components used in the automotive industry.

While the injection-moulding process itself has not changed, there have been significant developments in the industry with regard to new technologies and machinery, says GreenTech sales head and project manager JC Jonker.

These include energy efficiency and producing the required components at high speed and consistent quality, in line with the evolving requirements of the circular economy. 

He adds that one of the requirements of the circular economy is the increased percentage of recycled materials used in the final products, to reduce the manufacturer’s carbon footprint.

“Our customers are looking to use a certain percentage of recycled materials in their products,” Jonker says.

ENGEL, a leading original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of plastic injection moulding machines distributed by GreenTech, has solutions to reprocess recyclates.

Further, he notes that artificial intelligence (AI) is a big driver of change in this sector, with digitalisation and automation “closing the gap” in the production line process in terms of increased efficiency and productivity.

ENGEL has made it possible to process plastic waste as flakes in the injection moulding process, directly after grinding. Filtering, de-gassing and pelletising of the material as a separate process step is eliminated. The innovation significantly improves the energy and cost efficiency in plastics recycling.

Jonker also notes that many of the recent adaptations are meant to improve ‘lightweighting’. In the automotive industry, lightweighting is about building cars and trucks that are less heavy for improved fuel efficiency.

Jonker stresses that replacing components with lighter materials does not impact overall driver safety. In fact, many plastics feature a higher strength-to-weight ratio.

The trend towards lightweighting presents opportunities for plastic component manufacturers to provide innovative solutions to meet the specific requirements of electric vehicles (EVs).

However, Jonker cautions that, although EVs are being rolled out in First World countries, internal combustion engines will remain popular in Africa for the immediate future.

 

The Advent of Automation and AI

Another developmental change over the past decade has been the complexity of the manufacturing equipment itself – previously, a standalone standard injection-moulding machine.

Currently, however, a production line often incorporates automation and AI, with two or more parts being manufactured and then assembled simultaneously by robots, which work in conjunction with the injection moulding machine.

“Automation has become more sophisticated, and more cellular, where all parts are assembled in a cell around the machine. This process eliminates double handling and cuts transportation times, which is also high cost,” notes Jonker.

Another major benefit is that ENGEL plastic injection moulding technology reduces energy consumption and cuts emissions.

With sharp spikes in energy prices, automotive component manufacturers have had to focus on the sustainability of their operations and implement energy efficiency wherever possible.

“ENGEL engineers and developers have greatly reduced the power consumption of its injection moulding machines in recent years,” says Jonker.

On average, power consumption can be more than halved thanks to servo and all-electric injection moulding machines. “When it comes to supplying our customers with injection moulding machines, we have defined efficiency packages,” explains Jonker.

These packages consist of integrated control and smart assistance systems to reduce power consumption.

“Software packages like manufacturing execution systems (MES) monitor and manage the factory environment. There’s also been major growth in this space because automotive component manufacturers have realised that the more data you can collect, the more you can control,” comments Jonker.

There is a drive by government for local OEMs to increasingly localize the manufacturing of traditionally imported components.

“GreenTech is hoping to capitalise on this drive, in conjunction with ENGEL, in order to ensure that local automotive component manufacturers have access to the latest technology, as well as being as energy efficient and as sustainable as possible,” concludes Jonker.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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