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Title: Experimental investigation and computational modelling of the thermoforming process of thermoplastic starch
Author: Szegda, Damian
ISNI:       0000 0004 2673 1004
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2009
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Plastic packaging waste currently forms a significant part of municipal solid waste and as such is causing increasing environmental concerns. Such packaging is largely non-biodegradable and is particularly difficult to recycle or to reuse due largely to its complex compositions. Apart from limited recycling of some easily identifiable packaging wastes that can be separated economically, such as bottles, most packaging waste ends up in landfill sites. In recent years, in an attempt to address this problem in plastic packaging, the development of packaging materials from renewable plant resources has received increasing attention and a wide range of bioplastic materials based on starch are now available. Environmentally these bioplastic materials also reduce reliance on oil resources and have the advantage that they are biodegradable and can be composted upon disposal to reduce the environmental impact. Many food packaging containers are produced by thermoforming processes in which thin sheets are inflated under pressure into moulds to produce the required thin -wall structures. Hitherto these thin sheets have almost exclusively been made of oilbased polymers and it is for these that computational models of thermoforming processes have been developed. Recently, in the context of bioplastics, commercial thermoplastic starch sheet materials have been developed. The behaviour of such materials is influenced both by temperature and, because of the inherent hydrophilic characteristics of the materials, by moisture content. Both of these aspects affect the behaviour of bioplastic sheets during the thermoforming process. This thesis describes experimental work and work on the computational modelling of thermoforming processes for thermoplastic starch sheets using a commercially available material. The experimental work has been carried in order to characterise the deformation behaviour of the material with regard to different temperature, moisture contents and strain rates. Thermoforming of the material was performed and samples produced were used for comparison and verification of the computational modelling of the thermoforming process. In the first attempt to model the thermoforming process, a hyperelastic constitutive equation was established to approximate the material behaviour taking account of the combined effects of temperature and moisture content and a simple ii membrane model with constrained deformation was used to model an axisymmetric case of thermoforming. Simulations with this model showed that moisture content mostly affects the pressure required to push the sheet into the mould while moisture variation during thermoforming has little effect on the final thickness distribution of the product. Considerable discrepancies were found in the thickness distribution between the predictions from the model and the experimental measurements. Further attempts were made to take account of the elasto-plastic behaviour of the material and a more complex three-dimensional FE model was developed using ANSYS/LS-DYNA. Based on the findings in the simpler modelling work, no attempt was made to incorporate the moisture content effect on material behaviour but the material parameters for the elasto-plastic constitutive equation were obtained from high speed tensile tests so that moisture variation during thermoforming could be minimised and neglected. The predictions from this model have led to significant improvements in prediction of the thickness distribution which has become much closer to the experimental measurements in comparison with the hyperelastic model. This work provides some important insights into thermoforming of thermoplastic starch materials: a) Deformation behaviour of such materials depends strongly on the moisture content and the temperature, both of which affect behaviour during thermoforming processes, including the preheating stage; b) moisture variation during the thermoforming process has a significant effect on the pressure required for the deformation. This also leads to variation of moisture content distribution in the final product, which in turn affects the material properties such as ductility or impact strength at different positions in the thermoformed structure; c) thermoforming of thermoplastic starch materials can be simulated more accurately by an elasto-plastic model and the LS-DYNA algorithm in comparison with a hyperelastic membrane model. This work has provided useful information on thermoforming of thermoplastic starch materials with particular reference to the design of thermoforming tools and to the careful control of processing conditions including preheating. It has also laid a solid foundation for future work on how the moisture variation impacts on the formation of defects such as incomplete forming due to material hardening and fracture due to loss of ductility.
Supervisor: Song, J. ; Whiteman, J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Finite element methods (FEM) ; Constitutive equations ; Bioplastics ; Mechanical testing ; Diffiusion of moisture