Browsing Engineering and Informatics by Author "Gale, Martin"
Replication of mixing achieved in large co-rotating screw extruder using a novel laboratory 10-100g minimixerBenkreira, Hadj; Patel, Rajnikant; Butterfield, R.; Gale, Martin (2008)When compounding polymers with additives to develop materials at specifications (colouring plastics is the simplest example), the difficulties is in getting the formulation right the first time. Also, when developing completely new materials such as in nanotechnology applications, there is a need to do the initial trials safely and with as small quantities as possible to enable a wide range of experimentation. Wiith traditional applications, often the initial compounding formulation is done using small single or twin screw extruders but with machines that have a fair output to instruct the large scale operation. This step is costly in material wastage and time but more importantly it often does not provide the right formulation which in turn results in bigger wastage cost at the industrial scale before the right formulation is eventually obtained. With the very new material formulations, any reduction in cost of development is always essential. With these aims in mind, we have developed a new minimixer capable of handling tiny quantities of order 10-100g but the minimixer is capable of reproducing the very high mixing conditions experienced in large machines. This invention provides a new opportunity to develop new products quickly, safely and cheaply. The application is not restricted to polymers and can be extended to other soft materials. It has also other spin-offs as a research tool for studying mixing and developing new, more efficient, mixing flows. In this paper we explain the principle of operation we have engineered to produce such intense mixing. Basically, the device is based on combining two opposing flows: a single screw extruder circulation flow with a twin screw extruder mixing flow. The mixing is carried out as a batch but on its completion, the single screw extruder flow is reversed and becomes co-current with the twin extruder flow to enable the discharging of the batch through a die. In the paper we present mixing data obtained with various polymer-additive combinations tested in the minimixer under various conditions of screw speeds, mixing times and temperatures and at the larger scale to underpin the operation of this novel mixer. The quality of mixing of the extrudate was measured using a variety of methods depending on applications: using image analysis of microtome sections of the extrudate or of blown film samples produced from the formulations or measuring electrical properties.