Plastics Industry Prepares for the Future

Plastics Industry Prepares for the Future

Summer showed its best side in Würzburg during the SKZ Plastics Center's Network Week. The industry get-together is split into three groups: SKZ Innovation Day (June 25), SKZ Network Day (June 26) and the SKZ Technology Day (June 27). The event took place in the Model Factory, the Training Center Quality (TZQ) and various technical centers of the SKZ in Würzburg.

Live demonstrations

Once again, a varied program awaited the 600+ visitors. While the Innovation Day was dedicated to the topic of Circular Economy, the Networking Day focused on artificial intelligence. The Technology Day was all about the various plastics processing methods. Participants were not only able to observe live demonstrations on the machines, but also had the opportunity to gain insight into the SKZ's pilot plants. The days were rounded off by an accompanying trade exhibition and a joint barbecue.

AI - the game changer, even for the plastics industry?

Although the Network Day is always a joyful event for the industry, SKZ CEO Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Bastian also struck a reflective note in his welcoming speech. This is because plastics production in Germany fell by 22 per cent last year alone. At the same time, however, the global demand for plastics is increasing – and is even expected to double by 2050. There are many reasons for the decline. Bastian cited the high production costs, global tensions, but also the federal government's funding freeze for application-related research as causes. Bastian paid particular attention to a particularly pressing problem: the shortage of skilled workers across all sectors in Germany. Bastian addressed the question of the extent to which artificial intelligence could be a game changer, particularly for the plastics industry.

Integrating AI into modern material and process development

"Many people don't even realize that AI is not a child of our time," said Bastian. In fact, artificial intelligence has been the subject of scientific research for many decades. The current hype surrounding the topic of AI is instead due to the fact that general applications – such as ChatGPT, deepL or Midjourney – have increased significantly. However, these are not tailored to the specific challenges of the plastics industry. The industry, on the other hand, is confronted with a major problem: Unlike with general applications, the amount of data is often subcritical for company-specific applications in the industry. After all, companies do not share their internal company data on the internet. "That's why our mission must be to bring AI solutions to the industry through networking," says Bastian. After all, the integration of AI into modern material and process development is the prerequisite for the successful production of tomorrow. Currently, companies selling point still is process control through their employees' expertise. What it will be like in the future remains uncertain. "We have to get out of our comfort zone," warned Bastian. Progress is rapid. "That's why my appeal is: let's tackle it together – not only in research and development, but also in the training and further education of our specialists." In the end, however, Bastian also found a few reassuring words. The plastics industry does not have to be a pioneer in all facets of AI. However, it must be prepared to support the changes. The SKZ would be happy to be a "strong partner", Bastian concluded.

Henriette Quitter receives SKZ Young Talent Award

A highlight of the Networking Day every year is the presentation of the SKZ Young Talent Award. This year, Henriette Quitter was delighted to receive the prize of 2000 €. The jury of the SKZ Young Talent Award, consisting of the SKZ Advisory Board, the sponsor OPmobility and representatives of the SKZ, recognized the 27-year-old's work entitled "Development of Multi-Pulse Thermography for Areal Coating Thickness Measurement" as groundbreaking for the industry. Andreas Rößler, Customer Engineering Department Manager at OPmobility, said at the award ceremony that OPmobilty is pleased to support young talents of the younger generation.

Industry must "look at the future together"

"The Networking Week is always a very special highlight for us, as it is something of a home game for us," says Matthias Ruff, Head of Sales Education & Research and Interim Head of Networking and Events at the SKZ. "We are delighted to have this great opportunity to convince our numerous guests of our technology and the expertise of our employees. The intensive exchange and the cozy get-together outside of the technical presentations are also very important to us. Because especially in times like these, it is particularly important that we stand together as an industry and look to the future as one."

(Source: SKZ Press Release)


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