The role of load cells in Industry 4.0

Published On: December 8 2016
plastic cups

If you’re already using load cells in your business, you may be surprised to learn that in other industries, they are part of cutting edge technology that’s powering the UK move to Industry 4.0.


In an article for Plastics and Rubber Weekly, Graeme Herlihy, MD of Engel UK, says that the use of digital technologies and automation is on the rise.

plastic cups“One main focus is on intelligent systems collecting data from the production process in order to improve the process and the quality of the parts produced.”


Herlihy views load cell and camera integration into automated systems as Industry 4.0 moves.

The article also notes that there is a trend towards two growing uses of automation in the plastics industry; one towards increased system flexibility, and one towards greater levels of customisation. This in turn demands new solutions to ensure a future-proof “Smart factory” incorporating current Industry 4.0 technologies.


Energy efficiency and quality

The drive towards customisation inevitably involves stringent quality control, and put more of a squeeze on profit margins in the process. In an article for eepm, the magazine for Europe’s plastic processors, Rose Brooke describes how when:

“Manufacturers invest wisely to deftly walk the tightrope between quality and cost, energy efficiency is the pole with which they keep their balance.”


She describes how Labotek, a leading manufacturer of continuous drying systems, developed the Gravi-Dryer technology using load cells. The system monitors the delivery and usage of plastic raw materials to promote energy efficiency. As John Winzler, current head of Labtek says:

“We have been able to optimise and expand the Labotek hardware components through the use of the latest software and Gravi-Dryer load cell technology… The energy we consume for drying of our raw materials, is constantly adapted to the actual consumption, and this ensures that we are not wasting precious resources.”


Labotek supplied a system to a German injection moulding company which manufactured items in optical or lens-grade resins including PC, PMMA and transparent polyolefins COP, resulting in twelve separate drying systems.

Using the Gravi-Dryer system, the company were able to create a single centralised drying system. Brooke explained the role of the load cells in this revised set-up:

“The DFD (Desiccant Flex Dryer) Series – which supplies up to 450 m3 per hour of dry air for ten drying hoppers – is equipped with load cells. This means that instead of a volumetric level control reporting different fill weights depending on the bulk density of the material, the system can adapt if the machines are running at different speeds, taking into account rising or falling material usage.“


It’s a neat solution to ever-changing levels of demand, resulting in an 85% energy saving when combined with heat recovery systems, and an overall increase in production efficiency.

If you believe load cells could help your business move towards Industry 4.0, call us. We have years of experience in manufacturing bespoke load cell systems and solutions for a whole variety of businesses, from manufacturing to food, health to engineering. Give us a call, and give us a challenge!