Plastic parts are made for many different purposes and come from thousands of sources, and yet, generally, they carry no information to clarify what they are for or where they came from. This gap in traceability causes problems everywhere, and especially in medical and car manufacturing where quality and safety are essential.
This is part of the 4th industrial revolution which is slowly dawning upon us and making its way into our lives. The digital factory that is omniscient, knowing every single detail about its products, is starting to become a reality. Unfortunately, high-volume manufacturing of plastic parts is still far from this reality, due to the fact that most of these parts are almost impossible to integrate into the information flow.
Simple questions such as: ‘Where did it come from?’ or ‘What happened to it during production?’ become extremely hard to answer, even though it is not only mandatory but also a requirement set by regulatory bodies.
Conversely, the capability to track parts:
- Improves lean production
- Simplifies assembly & Filling processes
- Supports quality management
- Underpins multi-tier production
- Enhances recycling
- Fights counterfeit and more
Nowadays, traceability is dealt with implicitly by either using labels on the packaging or, in some cases, ink-jet-writing and also laser engraving directly onto the parts. These involve extremely costly work cycles after a plastic part has been produced. Moreover, they require complex machinery which is prone to breakdown and may cause contamination of a final product.
Rel8 has successfully developed a new marking technology for injection moulding called imZERT. It makes integration of easily-scanned barcodes on plastic parts possible, even if these are exceptionally small.
imZERT barcodes are applied during the injection moulding, which means the removal of the need for any further work or materials.
imZERT barcodes are the only machine-readable ones, even though their size is extraordinarily small. That is why the company calls them ‘The World’s Smallest Barcodes’.
A considerable advantage of imZERT is that it drastically lowers the costs of traceability in high-volume manufacturing without any compromises.
Making sure it delivers
imZERT is currently being examined under the watchful eye of a large pharmaceutical company to guarantee the highest accuracy during the assembly of medical devices.
On top of that, imZERT is also evaluating the product with a supplier for the automobile industry. The purpose is to place SKU, a unique number describing the Stock Keeping Unit, on an item to ensure that correct parts arrive at the assembly line.
Besides that, Rel8 is creating a marketing strategy to make imZERT widely available to all manufacturers of plastics. This effort has been strongly supported by the participation in Go Grow accelerator, as the owner Guggi Kofod puts is,
‘The GoGrow mentor is helping us to improve our credibility and position toward our potential customers. We are also putting together a second round of seed funding which we should complete during August or September. The Go Grow inputs are helping us to clarify our business case.’
Rel8’s future steps are to leverage the physical product into a full traceability offering tailored for high-volume productions. By this, it aims to bring the information into production processes where risk and costs have been prohibitive factors up to this point.
As Guggi concludes,
“Rel8 has got one primary goal in the years to come. That is to be the forerunner of the nascent ‘Traceability as a service industry’.”