To remain competitive, factories need to speed up manufacturing processes while becoming more connected. But faster production also means more static - a sticky hindrance to smooth operations. Erwin van't Hul, marketing manager at Simco-Ion, discusses how the packaging industry can use the IQ Easy Platform to plug into industry 4.0.
Not too long ago, static was treated as an isolated problem. "It was like a fire breaking out," says Erwin van't Hul, marketing manager at Simco-Ion. "It felt like you had to call the fire department to control this little problem before being able to return to normal production."
For any packaging process, but particularly when plastic is involved, static has the potential to disrupt production and process control, cause contamination and attract dust, and pose safety concerns to operators.
Manufacturers need their machines to work faster in order to meet targets. The only problem, according to Van't Hul, is, "the higher the speed the higher the static charge".
To mitigate this threat, Simco-Ion created the IQ Easy Platform. "People never considered how they could prevent static electricity problems; they just dealt with incidences as they happened. So we developed a system that combines all the components of production to reduce the problems static causes," Van't Hul says.
The IQ Easy Platform connects up to 30 anti-static devices into a network via Manager IQ Easy. It gives its users full control of all operational parameters remotely from a simple management interface.
The platform also enables connected devices to interact with each other to improve efficiency. The products under the IQ Easy Platform suite, which include anti-static bars and static-charging equipment, have 24V DC supply. There are modes to optimise the system to users' specific applications.
The platform adds value for packaging professionals by boosting efficiency of slitting and flexo-printing machines, while raising quality and decreasing waste.
If a machine produces a roll of film for packaging that has a high static charge, it will cause major problems for the customer.
"That's why we tested our system in multiple scenarios and have implemented it to take us to the next stage of industry 4.0," Van't Hul says. "Our system connects to our customers' IT system, enabling us to transfer data easily and giving them greater control over processes."
The IQ Easy Platform sounds an alarm when something goes wrong with the product, the static level is too high or the equipment needs cleaning. This alerts users of the platform to any operational issues that need tending. The value of the platform is that it makes preventive maintenance a simple procedure.
"Instead of wasting time trying to locate a problem or adjusting static levels, the platform is constantly monitoring processes to maximise efficiency," Van't Hul says.
The plug-and-play platform indicates when cleaning needs to be performed and how efficiency can be improved. A colour-coded system collates information for data and event logging. It notes upstream and downstream static levels and comes with a four-year warranty, something competitors don't offer, says Van't Hul.
Providing connected systems is important as factories become smarter. Manufacturers are employing more cost-efficient, automated processes to log and analyse greater amounts of data, while increasing efficiency and minimising waste. The packaging industry needs to change to continue to meet these demands.
The IQ Easy Platform gives those in the packaging industry what the latest iPhone gives to mobile users, says Van't Hul. Customers never ask for the exciting new capabilities the technology can offer, but these quickly become indispensable.
"There is a whole new world that has been opened to Simco and its customers in the past three years because of technological breakthroughs," Van't Hul says. "We are years ahead of our competition. Nobody else connects to industry 4.0 like we do, linking our IT systems to our customers.
We are constantly improving our products to give customers new functionality and things to improve processes even more."
Static control doesn't require hitting the panic button or calling the fire department. Implementing the right, smart technology can alleviate disruptions. The IQ Easy Platform helps packaging professionals mitigate the threat of static charge, while propelling them into the future of industry 4.0.