Plastics Innovation Center (PIC 4.0) officially opened at the Institute for Plastics Processing

Fully digitalised research centre for the plastics production of the future

Professor Christian Hopmann (IKV) welcomes visitors to the opening ceremony. | Picture: IKV

Mona Neubar, Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, welcomed the participants via video message. | Picture: IKV

In his speech, Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector of RWTH Aachen University, emphasised the excellent cooperation between IKV and the university in the implementation of the PIC 4.0 project: IKV

Bernd Reifenhäuser, CEO of the Reifenhäuser Group, welcomed the participants as Deputy Chairman of the IKV Sponsors' Association. | Picture: IKV

Louisa Desel, co-founder of OSPHIM, presented the idea and mission of the start-up | Image: IKV

At the PIC 4.0, the participants of the opening ceremony visited various test stands | Image: IKV

Aachen, April 2024 – A few days ago, the Plastics Innovation Center 4.0 (PIC 4.0) was officially inaugurated with an opening ceremony at the Institute for Plastics Processing (IKV) at RWTH Aachen University. The new centre marks a milestone in research and development in the field of plastics production and its digitalisation.

The PIC 4.0, which is located on the Campus Melaten, presents itself as a highly modern research centre, equipped with a completely digitalised infrastructure. This infrastructure enables comprehensive and practically oriented research into the challenges of digitalisation in plastics production. The building of the PIC 4.0 was funded with a total volume of 19.5 million euros by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and by money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The PIC 4.0 will serve as an important meeting point for small and medium-sized companies in the plastics industry to obtain support in technical and organisational issues connected with digitalised processes. At the same time, innovative technologies and digitalisation approaches are tested here in order to make abstract concepts tangible for industrial application and make its benefits transparent.

Mauritius Schmitz, Scientific Director for Digitalisation at IKV, talked about the PIC 4.0 and its targets. He stressed the importance of digital methods for overcoming the complexity of the challenges in plastics production. The PIC 4.0, he said, was closely connected with the Excellence Cluster, Internet of Production at RWTH Aachen University, and functioned as one of the hubs of pioneering research in the field of digital engineering on the Campus Melaten.

The opening of the PIC 4.0 was attended by personalities from politics, science and industry, including NRW Minister Mona Neubaur, who, in a video message, praised the building of the centre and emphasized its strategic importance for the transformation into a plastic circular economy, which also must be a digitalised economy. Also the Rector of RWTH Aachen University, Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, described the key importance of the PIC 4.0 for RWTH as a whole and for the Excellence Cluster, Internet of Production. He welcomed the opening and emphasised the research passion of the University and of IKV. He expressed his firm confidence that, in the future, research would be carried out into pioneering technologies in the PIC 4.0 that would then be successfully transferred to industrial practice. Furthermore, he praised the project as a whole, which, despite a number of challenges during the building phase, was bravely completed. Whereas in the building phase, supply chains had been interrupted and building materials had been subjected to extreme price increases since 2020, there was a series of deadlines hanging over the project that absolutely had to be adhered to for the planned financing. In view of this, he was all the happier about the successful cooperation between IKV and RWTH Aachen University, in which, at key points along the line, very good and harmonious decisions had been made that had contributed to the success of the project.

Bernd Reifenhäuser, CEO of the Reifenhäuser Group and Deputy Chairman of the IKV Association of Sponsors, emphasised the corporate challenges and opportunities of digitalisation. He emphasised the decisive role of the PIC 4.0 as a testing laboratory for innovative ideas before they are put into industrial practice. As CEO of a medium-sized company, he said he knows from experience that digitalisation necessitates a fundamental rethinking. "Digitalisation does not mean merely introducing new technologies but also adapting and extending knowledge, procedures and qualifications. The possibility of testing ideas on a laboratory scale before they are converted into industrial practice can save companies a lot of time and money. The PIC 4.0 offers all the possible linkage points for this."

Finally, Reifenhäuser and the Head of the Institute for Plastics Processing, Professor Christian Hopmann, were very pleased indeed about the founding and corporate spirit of the two latest spin-offs of the Institute, OSPHIM and Layer Performance, which have already successfully turned ideas from research for digitalisation in the PIC 4.0 into marketable products and solutions. The brief lecture from Louisa Desel, co-founder of the OSPHIM start-up, showed for example how intelligent process optimisation in injection moulding can function with the help of data-based methods and expert knowledge. Also Layer Performance takes advantage of the possibilities of digitalisation and develops software that enables the creation of three-dimensional machine pathways for additive manufacturing. Both spin-offs, said Bernd Reifenhäuser concluding, illustrate the courage and will to innovate, which the plastics industry now needs. Subsequently, all visitors to the opening ceremony were invited to tour the PIC 4.0.

The PIC 4.0 at IKV represents a pioneering initiative to strengthen the plastics industry through digitalisation and to make it capable of surviving in the future. It is expected that the facility will make a very important contribution to the further development of the industry.

Contact for questions
Dipl.-Ing. Mauritius Schmitz
Phone +49 241 80-93881