Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor

Mahesh Gupta

Abstract

Single-screw extrusion is one of the widely used processing methods in plastics industry, which was the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States in 2007 [5]. In order to optimize the single-screw extrusion process, tremendous efforts have been devoted for development of accurate models in the last fifty years, especially for polymer melting in screw extruders. This has led to a good qualitative understanding of the melting process; however, quantitative predictions of melting from various models often have a large error in comparison to the experimental data. Thus, even nowadays, process parameters and the geometry of the extruder channel for the single-screw extrusion are determined by trial and error. Since new polymers are developed frequently, finding the optimum parameters to extrude these polymers by trial and error is costly and time consuming. In order to reduce the time and experimental work required for optimizing the process parameters and the geometry of the extruder channel for a given polymer, the main goal of this research was to perform a coordinated experimental and numerical investigation of melting in screw extrusion.

In this work, a full three-dimensional finite element simulation of the two-phase flow in the melting and metering zones of a single-screw extruder was performed by solving the conservation equations for mass, momentum, and energy. The only attempt for such a three-dimensional simulation of melting in screw extruder was more than twenty years back. However, that work had only a limited success because of the capability of computers and mathematical algorithms available at that time. The dramatic improvement of computational power and mathematical knowledge now make it possible to run full 3-D simulations of two-phase flow in single-screw extruders on a desktop PC.

In order to verify the numerical predictions from the full 3-D simulations of two-phase flow in single-screw extruders, a detailed experimental study was performed. This experimental study included Maddock screw-freezing experiments, Screw Simulator experiments and material characterization experiments. Maddock screw-freezing experiments were performed in order to visualize the melting profile along the single-screw extruder channel with different screw geometry configurations. These melting profiles were compared with the simulation results. Screw Simulator experiments were performed to collect the shear stress and melting flux data for various polymers. Cone and plate viscometer experiments were performed to obtain the shear viscosity data which is needed in the simulations.

An optimization code was developed to optimize two screw geometry parameters, namely, screw lead (pitch) and depth in the metering section of a single-screw extruder, such that the output rate of the extruder was maximized without exceeding the maximum temperature value specified at the exit of the extruder. This optimization code used a mesh partitioning technique in order to obtain the flow domain. The simulations in this flow domain was performed using the code developed to simulate the two-phase flow in single-screw extruders.

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