DETROIT—Injection molding machine builder Arburg GmbH has developed new apps for its customer portal and equipped its Allrounders and additive manufacturing equipment with an Internet of Things (IoT) gateway.
The company is putting a spotlight on its expanding digital products and services for injection molding machines as it grows in the United States.
The Lossburg, Germany-based company's 23,000-sq.-ft. expansion at its Arburg USA subsidiary in Rocky Hill, Conn., is in full operation, according to Michael Stark, national sales manager. Construction started in 2019 at the site, which expanded 80 percent with added space for setup and acceptance testing of automation projects as well as customizing stock machines and storing larger spare parts.
Company officials say the U.S. is the most important foreign market for Arburg, which has installed about 13,000 machines in the U.S., Canada and the border region of Mexico.
Arburg is focused on production efficiency, digitalization for Industry 4.0 and sustainability, Stark said. He pointed to a group of resources called arburgGREENworld to help customers working on new processes and technology for a circular economy.
"The group outlays strategies for PCR (post-consumer resin), bio-based materials, material reductions, lower carbon footprint of manufacturing and more," Stark said in an email. "This is a true partnership with customers to fulfill their desires with new ways to approach the circular economy. It's much more than just a machine."
For digital services, Arburg has a customer portal called arburgXworld that has been updated with features and deals. For example, customers can order spare parts with an app dubbed Shop that has country-specific online sales promotions.
Customer registrations have increased exponentially over the last year, but since the portal only became available shortly before the pandemic, it is tough to tell if the two are related, according to Friedrich Kanz, president of Arburg Inc.
"What we do know is that much of the functionality of arburgXworld—most especially the virtual training and self-service features—is very valuable in light of the restrictions on travel and person-to-person contact during the pandemic," Kanz said in an email.
The customer portal aims to make plastics processing easier with other apps like VirtualControl for setup technicians. The app can be used in a home office for troubleshooting or to simulate and edit injection molding programs on a computer or tablet. The data can then be transferred directly to the machine controller via the Arburg host computer system or compact flash card.
Another app, the DataDecoder, can be used to display machine data records in a readable format and save them as files. A new feature lets users compare two data sets and display them visually. Machine fleets can be connected through the Arburg host computer system or the MachineDashboard app.
Another new development is the option to integrate Arburg's patented Freeformer additive manufacturing equipment into production with the ProcessLog app. The app lets Arburg customers upload files and display build data, machine status and more similar to injection molding machines.
Kanz said ProcessLog provides "clear, graphical representations of information spanning the entire build job, including the machine being used, the job start, build time, layer structure, build area temperature and so on. The system makes it possible to record data continuously, analyze it and develop process trends information that can be used for process optimization."
In other digital developments, Arburg now equips its Freeformer systems and all Allrounder presses with an IoT gateway as a standard feature. The company says the machines then can be networked with higher-level software tools and platforms for collecting process data, remote servicing, production monitoring and detailed planning.
The presses also easily interconnect with the arburgXworld customer portal or Arburg remote service.
In addition, any customer purchasing a new machine from Arburg will receive a voucher to retrofit two other presses built since 2014 with access to Arburg remote services at a discount price.
The data transmission is secure and only accessible by the customer, according to Arburg, which likens the service to a digital room to which only the customer has a key.
In another recent change, Arburg's Gestica control system is now available on all hybrid Hidrive and electric Alldrive injection molding machines with clamping forces of 280 tons and more. The release says this makes communication easier and offers additional assistance functions.
Following a roller-coaster year set off by the COVID-19 pandemic, Arburg officials say the overall impact on the business has been positive.
"The fight against COVID relies heavily on injection molded products such as test strips and PPE (personal protective equipment)," Stark said. "The requirement for fast implementation of these work cells have led to a sharp increase in machine activity. Most important is Arburg's ability to meet the challenge of time to market for many of these COVID products. ... Speed has been the most important factor in dealing with COVID."