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One step closer to the intelligent tool

We are now ready to take the next step towards developing the intelligent tool, which we have been working on for almost two years.

Thanks to a grant from Innovationsfonden (Denmark’s Innovation Foundation), we have managed to create a detailed 3D sketch of the system and the various processes. And now we want to bring the intelligent tool from the drawing board to a functional prototype by seeking grants from the EU-funded Eurostars programme.

"We expect that after the next phase we have a prototype of a system that works. And, what is more, a system that will not be linked to a particular tool sample but which can be used for many different tools and samples," explains Managing Director Aage Agergaard.

Electronics complement mechanics
The basic idea behind the intelligent tool is to automate and digitise both manufacturing and quality assurance of injection moulded plastic samples - which is otherwise traditionally a very time-consuming and somewhat shaky process.

This is done by placing a special unit on the tool and via a mini robot take the pre-moulded samples out of the mould and place them in a so-called function box. Here, the sample is photographed and scanned for any errors such as shrink marks and discolourations. The photos and dimensions of each sample are stored on a central server, after which the sample has a unique number laser-engraved for full traceability – in that way images and other sample data can at any time be found in the server’s database.

Via an interface and a default connector the unit itself is integrated on the tool with the injection moulding machine. This means that in case an error occurs on one or more samples, the injection moulding machine's control – based on a fixed matrix - automatically receives a message about changing the relevant moulding parameters so that the error can be rectified.

Higher quality and less waste
If the pre-moulded sample is not approved, the unit discards the sample and sends it, for example, to the disposal unit or maybe for direct reutilisation.

"Thus, the end product will be a system that ensures full traceability, higher quality of moulded samples, and the minimisation of waste. In a way, this kind of quality management already exists today but it is handled via external peripheral equipment, which is often very expensive and very difficult to convert to the production of samples other than the sample, which it is built to control," says Aage Agergaard and adds:

"Our system is far more compact, as it is mounted on the injection mould, and at the same time it is possible to use the system for other samples on an entirely different injection moulding tool.

Our unit will reach a completely different price range and will not be expensive - because as far as possible we use standard components," explains Aage Agergaard.

So far, Hjerno has spent one million Danish kroner on the project. If the application to Eurostars obtains approval, Aage Agergaard expects to invest further three million Danish kroner. The next phase will be done in cooperation with a foreign end user and a Danish partner.

Facts about Hjerno's intelligent tool:
Inspects the sample for visual errors
Scans selected measurements of the sample
Engraves a unique number in the sample
Stores image, measurements and sample number of each sample in a database
Adjusts the injection moulding process parameters for homogeneous moulding
Discards a bad sample directly from the injection moulding tool
Ensures 100 percent full traceability for each individual sample
Allows for 100 percent safe unmanned production with zero waste
System and sample quality can be remotely monitored via computer and mobile phone