Plug-And-Play Mold Monitoring Provides Transparent, Efficient Processes
A plug-and-play mold monitoring device, which takes intelligence into the tool without the complexity often associated with Industry 4.0, helps mold owners who continue to struggle with monitoring their molds.
This mold monitoring device enables transparency along the complete supply chain during a mold’s life cycle, including information about location, condition and parts produced. Photo courtesy of Haidlmair.
An injection mold is easily the most expensive part of a project. Yet, it has no brain and “is a pretty stupid tool,” Mario Haidlmair, CEO of mold builder Haidlmair in Austria, says. To make these expensive and highly sophisticated tools more intelligent, Haidlmair introduced its in-house-developed Mould Monitoring system at K 2016. While the device was initially only available for Haidlmair tools, it is now available to all mold owners, developed and distributed by a new independent company Digital Moulds. The company was founded in October 2019 and is an equal-share joint venture between Haidlmair and Germany-based moldmaker Hofmann.
“The large amount of capital tied-up in molds demands transparent business relations between the OEM, who owns the tools, and its contractors including mold builders and injection molders,” says Managing Director of Digital Moulds, Andreas Reinthaler. “Since a mold is a block of steel without any built-in intelligence, mold owners rely on good business relationships and trust. Mould Monitoring enables transparency along the complete supply chain during a mold’s life cycle. Information can be shared at any time by all business partners involved. It also happens that molds disappear, are used at other subcontractors or do not produce the agreed number of parts. Especially automotive OEMs, who own thousands of molds that they manually manage in their IT systems, require a lot of effort and remain inefficient. The most critical question an OEM wants an answer to is the tool’s current location. So, providing real-time information about a tool’s location and the condition is the first step towards mold digitalization.”
Access to All Relevant Mold Parameters
The Mould Monitoring system is a small mold-mounted device the size of a mobile phone, which transmits data (via GSM or Wi-Fi) on location, number of mold cycles, cycle time, injection parameters (such as fill rate and pressure), production time, maintenance and availability. A personalized user portal allows access to all these relevant mold parameters regardless of location throughout the entire mold life cycle.
According to Digital Moulds’ CEO Julian Resch, the box is simple to install and creates no initial costs as it is based on a leasing approach. “Our leasing model makes it easy for first-time users to tap into digitalization. It is a plug-and-play system—similar to purchasing a mobile phone—which we deliver to our customers at low monthly fees compared to the value-add it delivers. All we need is a 24-DC power supply.”
The device has an integrated battery, which lasts for up to two years, and in addition to internal sensors, it offers four universal inputs for additional sensor signals as standards. The modular concept allows for even more sensor signals to process cavity pressure, feed temperature or flow rate. The user then receives the mold’s current state and location, as well as a notification of any necessary maintenance or service.
“Most of our customers only need information about the mold location, number of parts produced and cycle time,” Resch says. “In contrast to other solutions that are process- and quality-oriented (including big data and self-controlling processes), we aim to solve simple use cases and provide information about the mold location, condition, and parts produced. Our impression is that there is much talk about topics that might only be feasible in 20 to 30 years, such as tool-machine communication without operator input. We believe that we need to concentrate on the simple but important issues such as mold location and condition first, and then move on to more complex issues.”
“We want to concentrate on the simple but important issues such as information about mold location and condition first, and then move on to more complex issues.”
The Mold Monitoring device is certified in more than 200 countries, including the United States. It comes with an international SIM card, making it a plug-and-play installation. The device is exclusively available through Digital Moulds in Austria, and in case of damage or malfunction, they will send a replacement. The company remotely installs updates, and in most cases, the customer will not need any local support, Resch explains. However, if there are any issues, the customer can contact Haidlmair’s mold building site in the United States.
Digital Moulds has also developed Mould Lifecycle Management, a cloud-based software that collects all relevant information about a mold over its entire life cycle, from idea to production and “end of life. The company is presenting a beta version of this software to potential customers. All mold documents, drawings, etc. are stored in a database that each person can access. Additionally, the OEM can keep track of the mold’s build progress at the mold builder and its use in production, including condition monitoring for maintenance. The sophisticated security concept allows different companies to collaborate and work in one single database.
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