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Plastic Welding On The Cutting Edge of Design

Jan. 28, 2020
Machine Design discusses innovations in plastic welding and its widening applications with John Paul Kurpiewski, vice president, global engineering at Emerson Automation Solutions.

As part of Machine Design’s 90th anniversary issue in January, we’ve asked industry experts to take a look at the present and future of technology and how it will impact the design and operation of manufacturing over the next decade.

Q: What products do you see that are currently solving design engineers problems?

Kurpiewski: Emerson has introduced two new plastic welding technologies, and the strategy behind their development at Emerson aim squarely at the challenges brought about by four megatrends:

  • Demand for continually improving energy efficiency, especially in transportation
  • Demand for medical devices to serve a growing, and aging, global population
  • Increasing miniaturization of parts and increased use of sensors
  • Focus on data aggregation and analytics

Improving the efficiency of energy consumption in transportation is all about “light weighting” vehicles and reducing material use. Growing and aging populations are spending more on medical care and demanding more medical devices that are smaller, more portable (or wearable), far less invasive, and often equipped with electronics and sensors.

Medical devices are just part of a much larger trend toward miniaturized electronic products of all kinds—cell phones, wearables, etc.

These trends present design engineers with several assembly technology problems: 
  • How to pack more functionality into miniature products.
  • How to manufacture products reliably using increasingly small, lightweight plastic parts, often with embedded electronics and sensors.
  • How to do that while collecting, aggregating and securing data essential to everything from assembly integrity to regulatory requirements for product and component traceability.

Finally, regarding data aggregation, the welders support Industry 4.0 capabilities including:

  • Weld data collection for local or network storage in a variety of formats. 
  • Customizable interface option for manufacturing execution systems, enabling monitoring and management of production, throughputs and alarms.
  • Standard robotic interface option, which enables the welder to communicate with a robot for automated part loading/handling.
  • Barcode reading option, which allows serial number part matching and part traceability.
  • Secure remote login for service support. 

Q: What is the biggest hurdle engineers and manufacturers will face In the next decade?

 Kurpiewski: I see two things:

With regard to the megatrend of data aggregation and analytics, there are many companies at many different stages. The challenge for equipment makers, engineers and manufacturers is in utilizing the huge aggregation of data to create value, to draw out actionable knowledge for customers. Emerson is focused on analyzing data to provide insights for our customers.

With regard to the megatrend of energy efficiency, there will be a continued and increasing challenge to the efficient use of plastics, in everything from creating, processing and recycling  the material to light weighting in transportation, to realizing smaller and more material-efficient part and product designs.

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