Bio-on, the Italian industrial biotech company headquartered in Bologna, has chosen Siemens automation and plant control and management systems for its bioplastic production plant at Castel San Pietro Terme, near Bologna (Italy). With the goal of making the production process more efficient and eliminating errors, the hub looks set to be one of the best examples of Industry 4.0 in the green chemicals and PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) bioplastic sector.
“Bio-on is a wonderful example of industry finding a way of being sustainable with plastic,” says Giuliano Busetto, Country Division Lead Digital Factory and Process Industries and Drives at Siemens Italia and Administrator of Siemens Industrial Software Srl. “Industry can benefit the country’s sustainability through the natural production of biodegradable biopolymers. We are proud to support the development of this industry through our innovative technology, through integration between the world of automation, process control and Information Technology, through our industrial software platforms, bolstered by our unique positioning throughout the life cycle of the production process.”
Bio-on’s innovative idea was to build, with the support of Siemens, a digital model of the plant (the so-called digital twin), placing automation and data at the heart of the design. “The domination of steel over software should end,” says Bio-on Chairman and CEO Marco Astorri. “Industrial design must be centred on automation because only then can true efficiency be achieved, not just in energy terms but also plant optimisation. We are confident that this collaboration with Siemens can be extended to all our new bioplastic production plants built in the future around the world.” The Castel San Pietro Terme plant design started out with plant management and automation systems before moving on to plant engineering and service structures. This process makes a major contribution towards changing the mentality of designers and creating new cross-sector skills among engineers.
Siemens’ supervision, control and automation technologies are at the heart of the plant that Bio-on recently opened in Italy – the world’s first plant producing special bioplastics for cosmetics uses: biopolymer micro-spheres made by fermenting non-pathogenic bacteria fed on plant waste (sugar beet, glycerol, fruit, potatoes and sugar cane waste); a 100% natural and sustainable supply chain with zero impact on the environment.
All the PHAs bioplastics developed by Bio-on are made from renewable plant sources with no competition with food supply chains. They can replace a number of conventional polymers currently made with petrochemical processes using hydrocarbons; they enable the same thermo-mechanical properties as conventional plastics with the advantage of being completely eco-sustainable and 100% naturally biodegradable.
Siemens control and supervisory systems ensures a number of advantages in plant management, in terms of production, economic, energy, production chain reliability, environmental and, last but not least, security. These systems enhance the skills and experience of the technicians overseeing the production process and, using data generated by the machines, can take accurate decisions based on real information. This helps reduce or eliminate errors and achieve extremely high production standards.