Digitalization in rubber processing - the example of extrusion

Project runtime: 01.04.2021 – 31.03.2024









Digitalization in rubber processing - the example of extrusion

In traditional rubber processing, the use of manual staff remains high even in the era of Industry 4.0. This branch of industry therefore has a high potential with regard to the automation of work processes.

The processing of rubber compounds by means of single-screw extrusion has been chosen as an example process from the rubber industry. The process chain starting with the raw materials and ending with the finished rubber component is divided into many sub-steps, similar to the baking trade. Essential are the selection of ingredients, mixing, rolling, shaping, vulcanising ("baking") and finally product control. During these processing steps, a lot of data is collected, for example direct machine settings such as speed, screw and barrel temperature or indirect machine data such as rubber temperature, pressure and output.

Often, however, the quality of the end product is heavily dependent on the experience of long-serving employees from a wide range of disciplines. Especially when using natural rubber, a renewable but often unspecified raw material, there are often variations in processing.

In this research project, the knowledge and experience of the employees are to be used to collect, evaluate and then digitize existing process data and data to be determined experimentally. In order to link all this data from the various disciplines of process technology, logistics, chemistry, physics and mathematics (simulation), the existing language customs of each individual discipline will be transferred into a common standard language. By networking all the machines involved in real time, it will thus be possible to produce closer to optimum quality, to counteract the increasing shortage of skilled workers and to significantly strengthen Germany as a high-tech location for rubber processing.