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Extrusion machine and line


The single-screw and multi-screw types have their differences (Fig. 2.1, Table 2.1). Each has its benefits, depending on the plastic being processed and the products to be fabricated. At times their benefits can overlap, so that either type could be used. In this case, the type to be used would depend on cost factors, such as cost to produce a quality product, cost of equipment, and cost of maintenance. Similar extruders from different manufacturers, and even those from the same manufacturer processing the same TP, will often require different operating settings to produce similar products. This is true even when screw designs are 'identical.' The reasons for the differences include factors such as variability of plastic (most important), barrel nonuniform internal dimensions, control sensor locations, variable or limited available heater wattage, coolant flow rates, etc. To obtain a consistent performance for the same material from one extruder to another, one has to know the variables that exist in setting up the machine controls on both machines. Good quality extrusions require: (1) up-stream equipment delivering properly controlled TP to the hopper; (2) homogeneity by the extruder in terms of the melt heat profile and mix, with accurate and sustained flow rates; (3) a good die design; and (4)accurately controlled down-stream equipment for cooling and handling the product [158,187,235,279,303, 3701. It is interesting to review patents and literature from the mid-1980s because actions and designs being taken, thereafter, basically expanded many of those initiated by the original pioneers in the extrusion business; see the historical review in Chapter 1. Since this period, plasticators have had conical smear heads, kneading section of the screw where a tapered

Features of extruder and production line

Sinqle screw


Single screw

Twin screw (Metered feed)

Head pressure

Screw speed __C

Screw speed


Melt Temperature

Twin screw

Screw speed-

Head pressure-

Figure 2.1 Effect of single- and twin-screw machine variables.

Table 2.1 Comparison of single- and twin-screw extruders Single-screw

Flow type Residence time and distribution Effect of back pressure on output Shear in channel Overall mixing Power absorption and heat generation Maximum screw speed Thrust capacity Mechanical construction First cost Drag Medium/wide Reduces output High (useful for stable polymers) Poor /medium High (may be adiabatic High (output limited by melting, stability, etc.) High Robust, simple Moderate

Near positive Low/narrow (useful for reaction) Slight/moderate effect on output Low (useful for PVC) Good (useful for compounding) Low (mainly conductive heating) Medium (limits output) Low (limits pressure) Complicated High

cone formed with the barrel wall using annular slots with grooves and channels, controlled feeding rates, and even adiabatically operating extruders. An adiabatic extruder is a machine that theoretically operates 'on its own heat' after the extruder has been heated sufficiently by conven-


Extrusion machine and line

tional means to melt the plastic. This type of machine is also called an autothermal or autogeneous extruder. Single-Screw Extruder Features of this machine are shown in Fig. 2.2. This schematic from Welex shows: (1) drive motor (from 20-2000 hp infinitely variable speed drives directly coupled to reducer for maximum efficiency all deigned to save floor space); (2) high efficiencygears to process all plastics (heavy duty, heat treated helical or herringbone gears equipped with shaft-driven oil pumps and oil cooler); (3)long-lasting thrust bearing (with life expectancy well in excess of 30 years continuous operation); (4) large rectangular standard feed opening [round with lining, optional, for use with crammer feeders (Fig. 1.1111; (5) cast-in heater/cooler elements (heat quickly, quickly, and last a long time); (6) cast-in stainless steel cooling tubes run parallel with heating elements (closed-loop, non-ferrous distilled water is automatically adjusted via microprocessor-based temperature controllers providing uniform, efficient cooling); (7) high-performance screws with bimetallic lined cylinder designed for the plastic requirement (long life at all temperatures and cored for cooling);(8)prepiped and prewired (ready for single power drop installation); (9) gmrds fully insulated (one-piece, hinged, no loose parts, no disassembly needed for access); (10) heavy fabricated steel single-unit base (preassembled so all parts are in place ready to be used); (11) when required, patented two-stage venting which eliminate predrying for most plastics (vents can be plugged in minutes); (12) screen changer (optional) for continuous operation without shut down (hinged swing-bolt gate standard); (13) gear pump (optional) to ensure absolute volumetric output stability; (14) static mixer (optional) to provide thermal and viscosity homogeneity; and (15) die (optional) (designed to produce single or multi-layer sheet without modification; also strand dies, etc.). The essential parameter in the extruders pumping process is the interaction between the rotating flights of the screw and the stationary barrel wall. For the plastic materia! to be conveyed, its friction must be low at the screw surface but high at :he barrel wall. If this basic criterion is not met, the plastic will probably rotate with the screw and not move in the axial/ output direction. In the output zone, both screw and barrel surfaces are usually covered with the melt, and external forces between the melt and the screw channel walls has no influence except when processing extremely high viscosity materials such as rigid PVC and UHMWPE. The flow of the melt in the output section is affected by the coefficient of internal friction (viscosity) particularly when the die offers a high resistance to the flow of the melt 1237, 238, 391, 3941.

Features of extruder and production line


n , m

8 s m

t; .* Y m


al X

5 m


0 al


Extrusion machine and line

Control of temperature is a very important processing factor in all extruders, but more important with the larger machines because more metal exists. It can be especially critical in the case of reactive extrusion where the extent of reaction and side reactions will be extremely temperature sensitive. Understanding the heat transfer basic key elements in extruders has been extensively reviewed in the literature [2, 237, 348, 397, 4481. As an example, in order to estimate the plastic overall heat transfer capability, equations can be used based on an extruder size 11621. The overall heat transfer coefficient (y) based on the barrel's internal diameter (ID) is an indication of the ability to move heat into and out of the process. Its optimizationis less critical when the requirement is to add heat to the process as the driving force. It can usually be easily increased by boosting the temperature of the electrical or oil heating source. In the case of electrical heaters, there should be high-temperature cut-outs in place to prevent burnout or meltdown especially when using cast aluminum heaters. In the case of oil heat, prevent the heat transfer fluid from degrading. This can be done by choosing a construction material that maximizes thermal conductivity, the plastic film coefficient,and the jacket side heat transfer coefficient. In the case of lower conductivity materials, minimizing the barrel thickness will help. This summary shows that: (1)for a low interior heat transfer coefficient, heat transfer is limited on the plastic side of the process; (2) for higher coefficients, heat transport limitations through the barrel become more significant and the negative influence on overall heat transport of using more corrosion resistance materials of construction occurs; and ( 3 ) even for the maximum coefficient, the plastic film (h,) presents a significant barrier. This shows the importance of estimating k , on evaluating the ability of the extrusion to control temperature through external heating/ cooling means. The experimental measurements have shown h, to be typical in the range of 40-90 BTU/ft2hr O . Factors that affect h, are, aside F from the plastic thermal conductivity, screw outside diameter (OD) to barrel ID clearance, and rpm. As the barrel-screw clearance decreases, the h, increases and thereby improving U,. The effect of rpm is to increase k, due to the effect of more frequent renewal of the plastic film on the barrel. Two opposing factors control the pumping capability of the machine. The screw, if the feed zone operates correctly, builds up a pressure gradient in the material filling the screw channel. A pressure gradient is generated by the feed section as well as the transition (compression), and metering (output) sections. This gradient, particularly its point of maximum pressure, depends on factors, such as screw rotation speed, barrel temperature profile, type of material, screw dimensions/design, and flow resistance due to the die. With screw deeply cut feed zone and a die with very little resistance, the maximum pressure usually occurs in the

Features of extruder and production line


last third of the screw length. This action is called free discharge or unthrottled flow. The output zone is over-run by the previous zones. When the output zone is made deeper, the pumping of the earlier zones is less throttled and the maximum pressure shifts towards the exit end of the screw [3701. With the pressure being zero at both the screw entrance and die exit, the pressure in the melt always acts in two opposing directions. The melt flow through the die under pressure transmits the throttling effect of the die to the movement of the melt in the screw threads. These effects are complicated, but the reduction in output caused by the counter-pressure can be calculated with some degree of accuracy. The amount of plastic conveyed by the screw in free discharge is about half the channel volume per revolution, because the melt adheres to both the screw and barrel walls, causing its average speed to be midway between speeds of the two surfaces. The quantity, which is called the drag flow, depends only on the dimensions of the screw and its rotational speed [397]. With the melt extruded under pressure through the die, the output is reduced by an amount which is called pressure flow or back flow. Quantitatively the output loss can be calculated as if the melt were flowing backwards through the screw channel under the influence of the pressure at the screw tip. This pressure action on flow depends only on the dimensions of the channel and on the pressure and viscosity of the melt; it does not depend on the screw speed, although indirectly the speed does affect the pressure flow by altering the viscosity and in turn the pressure. Another pressure loss is the leakage flow where melt flows over the screw flights from one thread to the next in the direction of the pressure gradient. This flow loss is usually disregarded when the clearance between screw flight and barrel wall is small. With worn screws, highly fluid melts and dies of high resistance, the leakage flow becomes significant. Good pumping consistency on extruders is necessary in most applications to allow good product consistency. As reviewed, numerous other factors influence the ability of the extruder to deliver the melt at good pumping stability. They include: (1)feed material bulk density; (2) friction characteristics of the feed (lubricated, etc.); (3) feed material temperature (long-term effect); (4) feed section opening and hopper design; (5) screw feed area design; (6) screw transition/meter section design or barrier/ meter section designs (Chapter 4); (7) screw tip pressure level; (8) operating screw speed range; (9) barrel temperature profile; (10) motor rpm stability; (11) screw/barrel/feed section wear; and (12) others. All these factors and others reviewed in this book should be investigated when instability, such as surging and material variation, occurs. Since down-stream from the die other factors are also candidates for product variation, the extruder should first be singled out as the problem


Extvusion machine and line

through pressure variation checks near the screw tip in the die adapter. If more than 3% total pressure variation is occurring, some attention to the extruder is warranted [187, E. Steward].
Twin-screw extruder

With the development of extrusion techniques for newer TP materials, it was found that some plastics with or without additives required higher pressures and needed higher temperatures than were required with rubber. There was also the tendency for the material to rotate with the screw. The result was degraded plastics. The peculiar consistency of some plastics interfered with the feeding and pumping process. The problem magnified with bulky materials, also certain types of emulsion PVC and HDPE, as well as loosely chopped PE film or sticky pastes such as PVC plastisols. During the early 1930s, the twin and multi-screw extruders were developed to correct the problems with the single-screw extruder. The conveyance and flow processes of multi-screw extruders are very different from those in the single-screw extruder. The main characteristic of multi-screw extruders include: (1) their high conveying capacity at low speed; (2) positive and controlled pumping rate over a wide range of temperatures and coefficients of frictions; (3) low frictional (if any) heat generation which permits low heat operation; (4) low contact time in the extruder; (5) relatively low motor-power requirements self-cleaning action with high degree of mixing; and (6) very important, positive pumping ability which is independent of the friction of the plastic against the screw and barrel which is not reduced by back flow. Even though the back flow does not exist, their flow phenomena are more complicated and therefore far more difficult to treat theoretically than single-screw flow. Result has been that the machine designer has to rely mainly on experience [107,146,151,187, 204, 234, 242, 256,276, 281, 297, 312, 323, 379, 395, 4111. Similar to the single-screw extruder, the multi-screw extruder, including the more commonly used twin-screw, has advantages and disadvantages. Figure 2.3 shows the different designs used with the twin-screw extruders. The market for counter-rotating twin-screws (TSs) is dominated by the cylindrical screws (parallel TS) and the extruder fitted with conical screws (Fig. 1.7). The type of design to be used will depend on performance requirements for a specific material to produce a specific product (however single-screw types dominate the industry). With the multi-screws, very exact metered feeding is necessary for certain materials otherwise output performance will vary. With overfeeding, there is a possibility of overloading the drive or bearings of the machine, particularly with counter-rotating screw designs. For mixing and homogenizing plastics, the absence of pressure flow is usually a disadvantage. Disadvantages also include their increased initial cost due to their more compli-

Features of extvudev and pvoduction line







cn I

cc c w


z I

I W -


z I
c w 5


Figure 2.3 Example of different twin-screw mechanisms.

cated construction as well as their maintenance and potential difficulty in heating. However, there are many applications where these disadvantages are outweighed by the performance required, such as in compounding (Chapter 17). Twin-screws with intermeshing counter-rotating screws are principally used for compounding, including situations where volatile must be removed during extrusion. Twin-screws have found a substantial market in difficult compounding and devolatilization processes. To provide specialized compounding and mixing, particularly in the laboratory, different mixing techniques are required, such as using interchangeable screw sections on a splined shaft (Fig. 2.4). Certain plastics require very gradual heating using external heaters and sometimes require specific mixing effects not available with singlescrews. With these machines, the terms external and internal are not preferred. They are replaced by the terms extensive and intensive to avoid confusion with internal mixers. The multi-screw extensive mixing action is characterized by the fact that the plastic constantly changes in flow direction. Each particle moves sometimes on the surface and other times in the body of the mass of plastic. The surface of the mass is constantly renewed and after a certain time a more or less statistical distribution of all components is achieved. Typical of these extensive mixers are agitators and most of the kneading machines.


Extrusion machine and h e

. 1

Figure 2.4 A Werner & Pfleider screw assembly offers specialized processing combinations.

The intermeshing twin-screw extruders known as kneading pumps made possible continuous and enforced pumping, due to the effect of the intermeshing screws. The gear pump is a special case of the twin-screw extruder. Original machine designs encountered different operational problems when high pressures and temperatures were required for processing certain TPs. Severe construction problems occurred due to overloading the screws and mechanical stresses on both the barrel and screw; bending occurred due to the separating forces, wear was caused due to different stresses on the thrust bearings, etc. These early problems were resolved by the 1960s; in contrast, early problems with single-screw extruders were overlooked. The intensive mixing action of multi-screw extruders is highlighted by the fact that adjacent layers of plastic have different speeds, i.e. velocity gradients or shear rates. In addition to the actual mixing effect, due to displacement of layers with respect to each other, pigment particles or ungelled particles of the plastic (fish eyes) are broken down by its limited friction action, especially in highly viscous plastics. There are extruder types that combine the intensive and extensive

Features of extruder and production line


mixing effects in one machine such as in the single-screw extruder and a Banbury mixer. The shearing of the plastic in the shallow screw channels produces intensive mixing and the transverse with pressure flows provide extensive mixing. With multi-screw extruders, this extensive mixing effect is missing. As reported decades ago, the mixing action can be seen using a small amount of color pigment that enters the hopper with the plastic. This color shot is reproduced in the extrudate of the multiscrew extruder as a slightly extended and relatively sharply defined region. The intensive mixing effect of the multi-screw machine is usually more pronounced than that of the single-screw machine. The shear rate between the flights of the intermeshing screws varies inversely with the separation of the flights and increases with the screw speed. This mixing action has an important effect on the conversion of drive power into heat and the design of the drive unit with respect to power and required speed. In the past, multi-screw extruders had a virtual monopoly when certain plastics could not be processed through a single-screw extruder. The type plastics included very low bulk densities (below 0.3g/cm), finely granulated emulsion-polymerized PVC, liquid or paste materials such as PVC plastisols, powdered LDPE, PE scrap reduced to flakes, and those with extremely low granular friction (0.2-0.3 mm) such as crystalline PS. With design changes, particularly in feeding systems and screws, many of these materials became processable in single-screw extruders. They produced pipes and profiles after developments occurred with materials such as powdered dry-blends of suspension polymerized PVCs as well as certain emulsion PVCs after preblending in a heated high-speed mixer. Other methods of handling certain plastics involved combinations of singlewith twin-screw extruders. They included a short tapered auxiliary screw fitted either beside or above the main screw with flights of both screws intermeshing. An interesting feature of nonintermeshing twins is the possibility of running the two screws at different speeds, thus creating frictional relationships between them, which in some cases can be exploited for the rapid melting of powders. In some twins, one screw is significantly shorter than the other. This design is used for plastics that may be adequately conveyed by a single screw, once in the form of a melt; they are difficult to feed into screw flights because of low bulk density or very low coefficient of friction of the solid against the surrounding walls. Thus, after melting by the twins, the melt moves through the single screw [107, 152, 146,204, 289, 332, 335,411, 4491. When twin-screw extruders are being studied for the difficult process of removing solvents, monomers, water, etc., from a reactor product, pilot scale testing is definitely in order. These tests are necessary to determine the screw design and barrel arrangement required. Special care must be


Extrusion machine and line

exercised in the extrapolation process. Pilot scale problems can be much greater in the productions size equipment and should not be ignored when designing the screws and barrels. With rigid PVC, when using powder plastics, the twin-screw has advantages particularly with changing materials or mixtures. Most of the commercial machines on the market and in use today are twin screw extruders and are widely used in the manufacture of rigid PVC products that include pipe, window profiles, and siding directly (Fig. 1.6) [187, L. F. Sansonel. With twin-screw types, the area of condensed phase plastic reaction engineering continues to expand as a preferred approach for obtaining desired product properties and for eliminating the source of solvent emissions. The roles of distributive and dispersive mixing in these machines are very useful. Different factors affect mixing based on screw configurations and extruder designs. The nature of distributive mixing for partially filled channels in the counter-rotating, non-intermeshing (NITSE) and co-rotating, fully-intermeshing (COTSE) twin-screw extruders have provided useful information. Distributive mixing is the commingling of two fluids so that the scale of fluid separation reduces to scale where another process (diffusion or a chemical reaction) can occur. The mixing is in a laminar flow regime which is characteristic of neat plastics. It is distinguished by the deformation of the fluid interfaces as a result of the applied shear strain. Distributive mixing relates the amount of interfacial area growth to the fluid strain rate, as distinguished from dispersive mixing, which is a function of the magnitude of the stress. The latter accomplishes droplet and agglomerate breakup; the former is the distribution of those components. When reviewing specifically dewatering of plastics, an industry method for removing liquids from solids in a twin-screw extruder was patented by Werner & Pfleiderer Corp. in 1992-3. The use of mechanical dewatering in the polymerization process by substituting a twin-screw for a thermal dryer results in meeting requirements and a reduction in long term energy costs. The systems use includes chopped and washed PE film, engineering plastics, chopped and washed EPS (expandable PSI food packaging, and coagulated styrenic latex. In principle, the dewatering in twin-screw extruders is based on counteraction of three forces which together form a pinch point where the material is compacted and the water is extracted. Wet plastic is conveyed downstream toward a restrictive element, which exerts a force in the opposite direction, causing plastic compression and water extraction. The third force, exerted by the screws of the drainage port, is acting transverse to the axis of opposing, preventing the compressed material with its high viscosity from moving out of the pitch zone. However, the extracted water is permitted to leave the zone through the drainage port.

Extruder components

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An example of this capability is in the dewatering chopped EPS packaging food scrap. Output rates achieved in several industrial lines were 3500pph of wet material that contained up to 60% water, with a dry plastic discharge rate of 1700pph. Hot water is discharged from the first drainage port. The remaining water is taken out through atmospheric and vacuum vents. Foreign matter in the form of paper and foil requires a screen pack changer which creates 3.54.1MPa (500-6OOpsi) back pressure. The melt is then stranded and pelletized [423]. Now available are higher output twin screw compounders using oversized motors providing screw speeds of 1000-1200 rpm. These increased torque motors permit taking plastic into the screw flights resulting in further raising their output rates. With barrels using the standard L/D (length/diameter) of 2840, they practically double output rates than machines of similar size. As an example with a conventional twin screw operating at 400rpm its output is 454kg/h (10001b/h). With just a 30% higher torque and operating at the same rpm, it extrudes 590kg/h (1300 lb/h) or provides a 30% increase. At a screw speed of 460rpm output is raised another 15% or to 680kg/h (15001b/h). This is a 50% increase over the conventional unit at 400 rpm. Other gains include shorter plastic residence time (Chapter 3) and the fact that the processing window is narrower. Compounding extruders are typically starve-fed (to be reviewed latter in this chapter) but with these high torque units more material can be fed into the screws. This action helps to keep the melt temperature down at the higher speeds. Note that machines specifically optimized for high speed (just like any other machine designed for a specific operation) may not perform well at slower speeds or may require different screw designs, and some materials do not lend themselves to their mixing/shearing action. They have found to be useful in processing materials, such as preparing engineering plastics, alloying/blending, and compounds that are filled and reinforced such as chopped glass fibers used extensively in injection molding (Chapter 18) [2], compression molding [431, etc. EXTRUDER COMPONENTS A schematic diagram and view of a single-screw extruder are shown in Figs. 2.2 and 2.5. This section reviews extruder components. Information on screws as well as vented barrels and dies are reviewed in Chapters 4 and 5. Extruder manufacturers provide machines with options since not all processors require or use certain components such as automatic screen changers, static mixers, melt pumps, and control cabinets such as free standing or base mounted, with either discrete or microprocessor control. Figure 2.6 shows that extruders can be built to provide different output