Back to Blog
Events, KEB Technology

K-Show 2016: KEB driving Next-Generation Plastic Machinery

Jonathan Bullick | October 31st, 2016

I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 K-Show in Dusseldorf last week. Like other German fairs I have attended – it was impressive! For those unaware, the K-Show is the largest plastics-related fair in the world. It is held once every 3 years and daily attendance was over 200,000 people. The show is spread out over 17 halls and lasts 8 days so bring those Dr. Scholl inserts.


It was impressive to meet and talk with many KEB customers throughout the show. KEB was driving a wide variety of plastic machinery, including: injection molding machines, single and twin screw extruders, blow molding machines, blown film lines, thermo forming lines, granulators, robotics, and even web converting lines.


Sometimes it is difficult to know what is inside the machine’s control cabinet but after walking the show it seemed that KEB was running a lion’s share of the high-performance machines. With an installed base of over 200,000 drives in plastics related machinery, KEB is truly an industry leader.


Injection Molding Machines – Excellent shaft performance reduces cycle times

KEB counts many of the best and largest injection molding machine manufacturers as their customers. Why is that? It’s because KEB’s core competence is excellent motor control. Good shaft performance ultimately translates to lower cycle times and a better performing machine. Comparing motor shaft performance is sometimes difficult because datasheets or specifications cannot simply be compared side-by-side. The best proof is in the pudding – test on an actual machine and see the results.


It starts with good hardware. In KEB’s booth, we were featuring all of our 6th generation drives including the S6, H6 and upcoming F6 Blue. These drives feature a current controller loop that is updated every 62.5 microseconds. Also, these drives feature integrated communication ports that handle real-time high-speed protocols like EtherCAT and Powerlink – both were featured prominently on machines throughout the show. This enables the precise coordination of multiple axes. On the power hardware side, KEB drives feature large current overloads which are required for the IM machine’s dynamic movements.


H6 shared bus drive for plastic machine automation
H6 Multiaxis Drive – Ideal for Injection Molding machines

Next is the software, or more specifically, KEB’s motor control algorithms. KEB has been making their own drives (not private-labeling) for 30+ years and the accumulated knowledge and expertise in motor control shows. Excellent shaft performance allows fast and precise movements in the machine. Furthermore, a number of advanced features in the KEB drives for closed loop can also be used to further quicken motor response and settling times.


Extruder Applications – ASCL & SCL for optimal results

One example of KEB’s expertise with motor control is our proprietary Sensorless Closed Loop, or SCL, control algorithm which was being used on many extruder machines. SCL allows closed loop performance without the use of a traditional feedback device. It works by using a very complex (but accurate) motor model along with a comprehensive auto-tune.


To be clear, SCL is not what is branded by many as “Open Loop Vector”. The motor model is much more complex and the performance and bandwidth of operation are much better. SCL allows precise torque and speed regulation – for extrusion applications this results in a superior finished product.


There are a lot of benefits to using SCL to replace the motor encoder. The first is cost. The encoder, cabling, and encoder card can all be removed. In a blown film application, for example, this cost can be multiplied by 10x so the overall savings is significant. Next, removing the encoder and cabling results in a more robust system. Cabling can easily be cut or pinched. EMI noise can be coupled onto the feedback line causing problems and erratic performance.


Direct drive motors were prominently displayed on a variety of machines. SCL can be used with all the leading manufacturers of torque motors and KEB has a lot of experience running Siemens, Baumuller, and Oswald motors. ASCL is a similar version of control software that can be used for induction motors as well.


KEB could also be seen at the show running Knoedler CMG gearboxes. This is a somewhat special design where multiple motors are driving a ring gear. This results in a very compact solution with a lot of torque density – ideal for many extruder applications. The CMG solutions I saw at the show were liquid cooled which brings me to my next point.

Liquid Cooled Knoedler CMG motor
Liquid Cooled Knoedler CMG motor

Liquid Cooled inverters


I already have water cooling on my machine, I might as well use it.


One thing that blew me away was how many people were using KEB’s water-cooled drives. A good number of injection molding and extruder companies had them on display. They were easy to spot because the KEB drives heatsink is pushed outside the rear of the panel. This is actually a very clean solution where all the coolant connections are made outside the panel and away from the electrical connections. A number of different cooling mediums can be used. The most common is water and it is typically taken from the building facility.

KEB liquid cooled inverter


I get that many people do not like liquid cooled inverters and prefer the air cooled variety. But one R&D manager we were talking with said, “I already have water cooling on my machine, I might as well use it.” One argument for liquid cooled inverters is they have improved power density over their air-cooled counterparts since nearly 80% of the generated heat takes place outside the panel.


The big takeaway for me is that KEB has heatsink options. If you prefer air-cooled drives we have that. If you prefer water cooled drives, then we offer that as well with a 3rd generation design that has been proven many times over.


Communication Options

Speaking of options, KEB offers an array of communication options on the drives that I did not see from our competitors. KEB does not exclusively offer one bus like some of our big competitors. Instead, KEB offers drive options for all of the major fieldbuses including: EtherCAT, Powerlink, Profinet, Ethernet/IP and others.


Why does this matter to machine builders? It matters because it offers the ability for a manufacturer to standardize on one drive platform globally. So the drives’ expected performance and operation is consistent across all machine platforms. One manufacturer we spoke to said they use Allen-Bradley PLCs for the North American market and Siemens for the European market. Using KEB drives would allow that company to have a consistent drive platform and performance worldwide. All that would change on the drive side would be the communication-related settings.


Internet of Things & Industry 4.0

There was no shortage of IoT discussion at the K-Show. Many of the large machine manufacturers were marketing some IoT functionality around process control monitoring and predictive maintenance. Another big focus area was energy measurement and optimizing energy consumption at the plant level.


KEB was also highlighting how our technology is enabling Industry 4.0. At the KEB booth, visitors were given demos on KEB’s Combivis Connect functionality which allows an authorized user to remotely connect to a KEB HMI or PLC. This tool facilitates the remote maintenance and support of machinery. This is critical, especially for companies looking to export or install their equipment abroad.


Additionally, the C6 Router was on display which offers additional options like a cellular version or I/O for local enabling.

The C6 Router can be used for remote maintenance and troubleshooting
The C6 Router can be used for remote maintenance and troubleshooting


KEB function blocks reduce programming time

KEB’s full line of automation controls were on display including the new SMART embedded control. A highlight was KEB’s Combivis Studio programming environment. In addition to programming in IEC 61131-3 languages, a programmer has access to KEB developed and tested function blocks. The idea is that a developer can use already created and proven function blocks rather than re-create their own. This offers the ability to rapidly speed up development times – perhaps by up to 75%.


The KEB Control team was highlighting function blocks that could be used for a web converting line. An example of one function block is the Taper function which allows for a gradual tension change throughout the winding process. Maybe 5 or 6 additional function blocks were highlighted with examples how they could be used to optimize a web handling line.


Overall, I had a great time at the K-Show. I would certainly like to thank my KEB colleagues and OEM customers who really enhanced the experience. Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to go back in 2019. If for nothing else, an opportunity to have the schweinshaxe again!

schweinshaxe - shortly before I slipped into a food coma
Schweinshaxe – shortly before I slipped into a food coma


If you are a machine builder and want to know more about how KEB can help you offer a state-of-the-art plastic machine then please contact us for a discussion.


Contact Us

Let's Work Together

Connect with us today to learn more about our industrial automation solutions—and how to commission them for your application.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.