The metalworking industry will continue to be characterised by comprehensive digitisation in 2022. “Industry 4.0” is no longer just a buzzword, but it is fundamentally changing manufacturing strategies, production processes and even customer relationships. Read about the current technological trends in injection moulding in the second part of our blog series on recent technological innovations in metalworking.
In 2022, the plastics processing industry is being particularly hard hit by the current shortage of raw materials. Even though the industry was able to make up somewhat for the slump caused by the Covid-19 crisis in 2021 with a sales volume of EUR 69.4 billion, no broad-based recovery is expected this year.
Nevertheless, the order books in the injection moulding industry are well filled – the packaging and automotive industries, in particular, are surprising with high demand. Sustainable injection-moulded parts are the main trend, as is extensive digitisation of the industry. In this article, we illustrate the trends of 2022 for the injection moulding sector.
No tool – no injection moulding: this fact will of course remain true in 2022. However, toolmaking is still one of the biggest cost drivers in injection moulding – the development of new moulds, their production and necessary optimisations in the course of series production sometimes significantly squeeze the margins of a project. With new, innovative simulation software, tools can be optimised even before production. The software also makes it possible to provide detailed information on process parameters, such as filling times, flow behaviour of the plastics in the tool or temperatures. In combination with computer-aided component analyses, precise assessments of the readiness for series production of injection-moulded parts are thus possible – without even removing a chip from the future tool.
The automotive industry is back after the collapse of the Covid-19 pandemic. The e-mobility market, in particular, offers strong growth potential. What is required here in the area of injection moulding is a significant reduction in the weight of the individual components – because the easiest way to increase the range of electric cars is to minimise their weight. In 2022, the injection moulding industry will face the challenge of exploiting thin-wall potential in the production of components for the automotive industry to an even greater extent than before – and combining it with other technologies, such as injection compression moulding or foaming of plastics.
Sustainable use of scarce raw materials determines the work of injection moulding manufacturers. 2022 is all about conserving resources – the industry’s goal must be to create more products from the available plastic. This is achieved by optimising technology and production processes so that waste is reduced right from the start and also during ongoing production, while productivity is increased at the same time.
The implementation of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive obliges market participants to take back plastic packaging – which inevitably results in the recycling of plastics. The process-reliable processing of recyclates challenges injection moulding machine manufacturers just as much as material manufacturers and the manufacturing industry. Particular challenges are apparent in the processing procedures, in the collection of post-consumer plastic articles by type, and also in the combination of new material and recyclates. With innovative processes, for example the encapsulation of recycled plastics in a layer of new plastic or retrofit modules for the production of multi-layer parts, we expect the high demand for Circular Economy processes to provide a strong boost and full order books for the injection moulding industry.
In order for injection-moulded parts to exhibit particularly high strength, they can be enriched with fillers or fibres. Injection-moulded composite materials offer excellent mechanical properties combined with low weight – which attracts particular interest from the automotive and aerospace industries. The trend in 2022 is to combine plastics with steel fibres in injection moulding. In this way, insulating materials can be made conductive – which opens up completely new fields of application, for example in the area of electromagnetic shielding of technical components. Industry insiders see possibly the greatest potential in the field of reinforced plastics for 2022 in the nano-fillers sector. Even though the high-tech materials cannot yet be used economically in series production, research is focusing strongly on that development. We expect to see ground-breaking innovations here, during the year, which could completely redefine injection moulding
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