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Automatic optimisation of the injection moulding process

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Artificially intelligent injection moulding

Injection moulding, a forming process for thermoplastic polymers, consists of injecting liquid plastic into a heated mould to produce a shape. An automatic optimisation system for the above process, which will be exploited by the plastics industry, is close to completion.

Industrial Technologies

The European plastics industry has lost considerable ground the last few years due to severe competition with the Far East, where labour is much cheaper. Use of and rapid adaptation to new technologies is essential for protecting the one million jobs in this industrial sector. Injection moulding is the main, if not the only way of forming plastics can greatly benefit from a new automatic optimisation scheme. A robot moves the moulded products to three different stations where gloss, dimensions and weight are measured. The data obtained are fed into three artificial intelligence modules and compared with information regarding the process that is already stored. A control module, depending on the outcome of the comparison, is able to alter the working parameters of the injection-moulding machine. A gloss meter working in scanning mode, automatic in-line measurement of plastic components dimensions and a design procedure for manufacturing instrumented injection moulding nozzles, are few of the innovations provided by researchers. Industrial trials were successful, but not extensive enough to allow immediate commercialisation. The technology though looks promising and the aim of reducing the optimisation time for new products by 50-70% and increase production efficiency by 20-30% is well within its capabilities.

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