Image caption: Klaus Ehling (left) and Georg Tinschert (right) from Wittmann Battenfeld with Sanit's Raimund Au, showing a fully automated assembled flush valve. Credit: Wittmann Battenfeld.
Managing Director of Wittmann Battenfeld, Georg Tinschert, talks all things sustainable ahead of the company’s appearance at Fakuma.
What part does functional integration play in the quest for greater sustainability?
If we are defining sustainability as one of the objectives of technological development, then we must place the conservation of resources in technological development processes right at the top of the agenda. Our definition of sustainability is to be able to perform more functions using less material, fewer manufacturing processes and less energy. In the case of injection moulding, functional integration comes into play in mould and process technology and with new materials and automation, by combining parts made from different materials in the injection mould, for example. One might mention the overlapping assembly of metal and plastic parts or of soft plastics as seals on structural components and the reinforcement of structures by overmoulding fibre composites. The scope is very wide.
Are components produced using functional integration of better quality?
In principle, quality and test standards are the same for all components, whether simple or complex, so they also apply without exception to components with higher functional integration. There is therefore no direct connection between functional integration and quality. Overall, however, a more highly integrated assembly will always have a lower risk of failure than a group of individual components.
When is technical risk acceptable?
Basically, we can say that a multifunctional part is generally cheaper than a combination of individual functions that have to be combined into a functional unit by way of interfaces. The cost advantage is the motivation for accepting risks, both in development and in production and quality assurance. Dealing with these risks, that is striving to keep them to a minimum, is what in turn drives technical progress. If integral components offered no added value, no one would make them.
Why is a functionally integrated component more sustainable?
Quite simply because fewer individual parts and fewer assembly processes mean that fewer resources and less energy are consumed. And because, if they are cleverly designed, they entail lower costs, emissions and residues when they are recycled. The motor industry has already been encouraging the latter for many years now by making very extensive use of single substance systems. That means modules made so far as possible from the same or closely related groups of materials. These no longer have to be laboriously and expensively separated in order to be recycled.
Is Wittmann Battendfeld showing a functionally integrated component at Fakuma?
We are for example showing a motor vehicle part that is made lighter with our foam moulding process while at the same time having a very good quality surface. This will often make it possible to do away with the subsequent painting process. If we can manage to make a plastic component lighter while at the same time giving it a high-quality surface, making painting unnecessary, we have satisfied two sustainability criteria: the lower weight means less material is used and an additional, often expensive, manufacturing step is avoided.
Are there limits to functional integration?
The boundaries are set by the ratio of costs to benefits and the only real limits are those of creativity.