Christian Hopmann

How plastics processing benefits from digital shadows and machine learning

In order to create added value of plastics in terms of improved circular economy, an increasing use of recycled polymers becomes more and more important. For long-term applications, such as plastic pipes, the resistance against crack initiation and slow crack growth is a crucial material property as it is directly linked to the structural lifetime. The current paper demonstrates the characterization of the slow crack growth resistance with the cyclic cracked round bar (CRB) test and shows how recycled polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) perform. Moreover, systematical investigations of PE mixed with increasing amounts of PP will be presented as well as blending of different PE types, typically used for extrusion and blow moulding. The generated results confirm a significant impact of the purity and degree of sorting on lifetime relevant long-term properties.

Industry 4.0, digitization and artificial intelligence – all these terms are frequently used when production systems of the future are discussed. However, there is still little evidence, that those techniques, which are already state of the art in trade, banking and other business sectors, do as well impact production and plastics processing, respectively. Consecutively, there are just very few role models available in plastics industry.

Within the presentation a fundamental introduction into the research of digital shadows in plastics industry will be given and implementation will be presented, which show that artificial intelligence supports injection molders in setting up a robust process based on knowledge rather than experience. By efficient interoperation between virtual process development based on process simulation and real production using AI, the next level of scientification of plastics processing may be achieved.

Dr. Christian Hopmann holds the position of Chair for Plastics Processing and is director of the IKV – Institute for Plastics Processing in Industry and Crafts at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. He is co-founder of the AZL – Aachen Center for Lightweight Production and Vice Dean of the faculty for mechanical engineering. Hopmann is principal investigator in the Federal Cluster of Excellence “Internet of Production” and in Collaborative Research Centers. He studied mechanical engineering and received his doctoral degree from RWTH Aachen University in 2000. Following a senior vice-director position at IKV, he worked at the plastics processing company RKW SE, latterly as Managing Director of RKW Sweden A.B. in Helsingborg/SWE. He participated in the program for executive development at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Hopmann received the innovation award of Germany’s federal state North Rhine-Westphalia, is visiting professor of the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, Beijing/China, and fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers, CT/USA.