Covestro, one of the world’s leading polymer manufacturers, and the Haier Group, a major global brand for household appliances, have agreed to set up a joint laboratory in Qingdao, China, for the digitalisation of appliance production.
Both parties have signed an agreement, with the project being supported by the Haier Institute of Industrial Intelligence.
The laboratory will develop digital solutions for using polyurethanes in appliance productio, in line with Covestro’s digitalisation strategy. The objective is to set a new benchmark for digitalising the chemical industry.
Best insulation with polyurethane
All over the world, polyurethane rigid foam is the material of choice for efficient refrigerator insulation. To insulate a refrigerator, a precisely dosed amount of polyurethane raw materials is injected into the outer cavity, filling it up completely during foam formation. Both this material and the related foaming process are crucial for the refrigerator industry.
Fully-automated, smart production depends primarily on a precise characterisation of the polyurethane components – a complex task. With the development of digital solutions, Covestro hopes to open up new avenues for helping household appliance manufacturers overcome these challenges.
Process optimisation through digitalisation
In the new Haier–Covestro Digitalisation Joint Laboratory, both partners want to develop innovative solutions for data collection and analysis, monitoring foam quality and process workflows and continuously optimising processes.
These measures are intended to continuously improve the polyurethane foaming and manufacturing process, boosting foam quality and reducing manufacturing costs. This will open up new opportunities for the domestic appliance industry in an increasingly digitalised world.
“With this collaboration, Covestro benefits from its comprehensive experience with polyurethane and foam technologies, while Haier brings in its expertise in industrial automation and the analysis of large volumes of data,” explains Dr Ulrich Liman, global head of research and development in the polyurethanes segment at Covestro. “This combination is bringing forth a new era of digital transformation in the chemical industry.”
Pioneers of intelligent production
Launched by Haier, CosmoPlat is the first industrial Internet platform in the world to let users participate in the whole process. It can realise the transformation from mass manufacturing to mass customisation, reshaping the industrial value chain and eco-chain, and further empower enterprises, users and suppliers to build a new manufacturing eco-system to achieve win-win cooperation.
Haier describes CosmoPlat as “an open multilateral interactive co-creation and sharing eco-platform. Our CosmoPlat user experience-based mass customisation model can be copied across industries, fields, and cultures. It is an industrial Internet platform with global universalities. Our cooperation with Covestro will undoubtedly inject a key innovative force in chemical digitalisation into Haier’s path towards intelligent manufacturing.”
Mass customisation solutions
In recent years, various industries in China have driven the digital transformation. For the traditional chemical industry, this also has an impact on the development of upstream and downstream value chains.
Covestro and Haier plan to enter into a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership by continuously developing innovative digital solutions. Empowered by CosmoPlat, digital solutions can also be applied to the development of customised solutions for diversified polyurethane applications to achieve mass customisation.
Leading the R&D team is Dr Michael Schmidt, head of innovation, Asia Pacific at Covestro. John Dou, vice president of commercial operation, China, within the polyurethanes segment at Covestro, is leading the sales team. Both expect that the innovative cooperation model will increase synergies between Covestro and Haier.
As an important initiative of Covestro’s global digital strategy, the laboratory will focus on developing digital solutions related to polyurethane materials in order to push forward smart manufacturing in domestic appliances and mass customisation in the chemical industry.
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