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Technological and design aspects of extrusion and injection moulding of thermoplastic polymer composites and nanocomposites

Final Report Summary - CO-EXIN (Technological and design aspects of extrusion and injection moulding of thermoplastic polymer composites and nanocomposites)

In the period from 01/04/201 to 31/03/2015 of the implementation of the European project “Technological and design aspects of extrusion and injection moulding of thermoplastic polymer composites and nanocomposites“ in the framework of FP7-PEOPLE-2010-IRSES based on the agreement PIRSES-GA-2010-269177, joint research activities, training sessions, workshops and seminars were carried out with the participation of researchers from four universities:
Lublin University of Technology (Poland) LUT,
Technical University of Kosice (Slovakia) TUKE,
University of Applied Sciences of Zwickau (Germany) WHZ,
Lviv Polytechnic National University (Ukraine) NULP.
Training courses in two parts were conducted. The training courses mainly dealt with single- and twin-screw extrusion technology (WP1, WP2), injection moulding technology (WP3) and preparation and properties of composites blends (WP4). Composite blends were prepared based on polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyamide, and polyethylene filled with short-cut glass fibre, talc, chalk, and montmorillonite, with a varying content by mass: 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50%. The research also involved various modifying agents, e.g. foaming agents such as Expancel 950MB, endothermic and exothermic blowing agents, halogen-free flame retardants or oxybiodegradants, the content of which ranged from a fraction to a few percent. The components were blended in single-screw and twin-screw plasticizing systems and by means of roller machines, and then mainly processed by extrusion or injection moulding in order to obtain test samples. These studies were supplemented with research determining the impact of design changes in the plasticizing system and changes of extrusion parameters on properties and structure of the obtained products.
The samples obtained in various technological conditions of the process were subjected to studies of processing properties, such as melt flow index, mechanical properties, especially hardness and impact strength, as well as tests of tensile strength and thermal properties, including heat deflection temperature and melting temperature. The samples also underwent structural tests using optical microscopy to determine the degree of homogenisation of the products. Thermo-mechanical tests were also conducted with the use of modern thermoanalytical methods: differential scanning calorimetry and thermogravimetry.
During the processing of composite blends, the rate of the process was determined by calculating, among others, unit consumption of energy, energy efficiency, or mass flow rate at various rotational speeds of the screw in order to find the optimum technological conditions.
The research involved processing machines with conventional and unconventional plasticizing systems and fitted with a barrel with an active grooved zone, the elements of which could be exchanged during the extrusion process. The research, especially related to injection moulding of polymer composites, was supported by computer simulations the results of which were experimentally verified.
The transfer of knowledge and training activities included:
1. Arrangement of 5 secondments of scientists from NULP to TUKE – 9 months,
2. Arrangement of 9 secondments of scientists from NULP to LUT – 13 months,
3. Arrangement of 27 secondments of scientists from LUT to NULP – 26,5 months,
4. Arrangement of 23 secondments of scientists from TUKE to NULP – 24 months,
5. Arrangement of 6 secondments of scientists from NULP to WHZ – 9 months,
6. Arrangement of 2 secondments of scientists from WHZ to NULP – 5,5 months,
7. Arrangement and financing of 12 additional one-week secondments of scientists from LUT to TUKE,
8. Organizing 9 international seminars in Lviv, Lublin, Kosice and Zwickau,
9. Organizing 12 scientific workshops in Kosice, Lublin, Lviv and Zwickau,
10. Conducting 7 theoretical training sessions related to the structure of the plasticizing system of single- and twin-screw extruders, blending polymers with fillers and nanofillers and other additives, polymer injection moulding as well as properties of composites,
11. Organizing a conference in Lviv, concluding the project,
12. The defense of doctoral thesis entitled “Zavislost mechanickych vlastnosti na percentualnom podiele pliva u nanokompozitov”, by Branislav Duleba in the Department of Technologies and Materials, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Kosice), 27 August 2013, Prof. Janusz W. Sikora was the reviewer of the thesis,
13. Within the cooperation, LUT employed professor O. Suberlak from NULP to conduct 120 hours of lectures.

Dissemination of results included:
1. Publication of 31 works in scientific - technical peer–review journals presenting achieved research results (also included in Thomson Reuters Master Journal List)
2. Delivery of 69 papers at 26 international conferences presenting achieved research results,
3. 6 patent and industrial design applications granted,
4. 9 patents and industrial designs granted,
5. 1 trademark application granted,
6. Publication of three scientific monographs with 42 chapters,
7. Development of project website at NULP, TUKE and LUT:
Four meetings of the Project Management Committee were held in accordance with the plan.
As a result of the project implementation, a number of innovative solutions were developed, which were filed as applications at The Polish Patent Office and The Ukraine Patent Office. For example, the method of utilization of polyethylene terephthalate waste developed within the project, which constitutes a Ukrainian Patent Application No 201302750 is characterized by a higher degree of simplification, lower energy consumption and good technological, physical and chemical properties of the obtained pellets in relation to the existing ones.
The constructional solution of an active grooved section of a new plasticizing system developed within the project (Polish Patent Application No P-401976), which constituted a milestone of the project, was appreciated and awarded by Romanian Inventors Forum during the 11th International Fair of Innovations, New Ideas, Products and Technologies ARCA 2013, Zagreb 2013.
The innovative solution developed within the project called “The wood-polymer composition production method”, by T. Jachowicz, V. Krasinski and L. Dulebova received the diploma of the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education.
Polish Patent application P 403245 “Extruder head for pelletizing” developed by a team: T. Jachowicz and J. W. Sikora was submitted to the invention fair in Zagreb “ARCA 2013”, where it was awarded a diploma and a medal from the Association “Russian House” for International Scientific and Technological Corporation.
At the concluding Conference at Lviv all participants of the project presented and discussed their achievements.
The obtained research results can be of interest to numerous target groups, especially to persons dealing with preparation of polymer blends as well as processing and recycling of polymers. Based on the obtained results, they can select the type of polymer and the type and mass fraction of fillers or nanofillers to obtain composite blends of specific processing properties. These blends can be processed by extrusion or injection moulding in the range of processing parameters determined as part of the project, such as temperature of the plasticizing system, polymer pressure, or rotational speed of the screw, ensuring the highest efficiency of their processing, with the highest energy efficiency and the lowest energy consumption. The results will also be useful to persons seeking information on the impact of selected geometrical properties of the barrel of the plasticizing system (length, number of grooves, their kinematic activation) on the efficiency of the process of extrusion.
The target group includes manufacturers and users of polymer products to whom it is important to learn the impact of the type and mass fraction of various fillers and other additives (blowing agents, flame retardants, and oxybiodegradants) on the structure and properties of the obtained composite products.