Flow and mixing studies in a co-rotating intermeshing twin screw extruder
The basic understanding of mixing in the process of polymer melt extrusion by twin screw extruder is limited by their geometrical complexity and the interactions of the process parameters. Mixing and flow in a 100mm diameter, trapezoidal channeled, intermeshing co-rotating twin-screw extruder have been characterised by determination of residence time distribution (RTD) and of the paths taken by tracers added to the melt. The axial mixing and the effects of varius parameters on it were established by studying RTD using tracer techniques. As the tail of the distribution is of paramount importance, the reproducibility of the RTD curve was extensively studied. Radioactive NnO2 was used as a tracer and detected by gamma ray spectroscopy giving more reproducible results than added barytes estimated gravimetrically after ashing. Shock cooling of the extruder and sectioning of the solidified compound in the screw channels was used to-study the flow mechanism. The maximum throughput achieved, polymer melting mechanism, filled volume and axial mixing Are interrelated, and are dependent on the configuration and position of segmented mixing discs present in the screw profile. In the upstream position these act as melting discs and their efficiency is increased in a closed configuration. Initial melting is achieved over a remarkably short distance along the screw profile. The screw speed affects the axial mixing which is shown to be related to the net relative pressure change at the screw tips. A flow model is proposed such that the overall material flow taking place in an anticlockwise direction along the screw channel comprises two separate flow regimes. The upper regime rotates anti-clockwise and is made up of main and small tetrahedron flow and calender flow. The lower flow regime rotates clockwise and is made up of main and small side leakage flows and a portion of the main tetrahedron flows together with a central flow. The flow studies show conclusively that the melt from a particular site ahead of the intermeshing zone occupies a predestined site after passing through the intermeshing zone.