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the Flights in Single

Screw Melt Extruders

I. Manas-Zloczower

Department of Chemical Engineering

University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN

and

Z. Tadmor

Department of Chemical Engineering

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

Haifa, Israel

ABSTRACT

In single screw melt extruders there is a continuous flow of polymer melt over the flight clearance.

high shear rate and may also experience very high

temperature. This, in turn, may affect polymer

structure and properties. The melt that flows over

the flight is mixed with the bulk of the melt flow-

INTRODUCTION

focal area of concern in extrusion operation,

yet it received surprisingly little attention in

theoretical analysis. As far as the extrusion process

is concerned, the flight clearance has a n overall

negative effect. Leakage over the flights reduces

pumping efficiency, delays the start of melting and

reduces melting rates, broadens residence time distribution, reduces the heat transfer coefficient on

the barrel, and reduces extensive mixing perfor-

elements that have not passed over the flights and

there are fluid elements that passed over the flight

once, twice, or many times. In this paper, a theoretical model is proposed for calculating the

number of pass distribution function of a melt

stream emerging from a melt extruder.

concerned, the best would be to have a zero flight

clearance. However, with zero flight clearance the

screw would not turn very easily and, when turned

by a sufficiently high torque, it would start to wear

out quickly.

Fortunately, a small flight clearance does not

affect the extrusion process too severely, and the

polymer melt passing over the flights acts as a

lubricant which enables both relatively easy rotation, and by its hydrodynamic action, prevents, to

a large extent, flight tip t o barrel metal contact. As

a result, the screw, supported generally only on

21 3

the drive end, essentially floats in the barrel on

molten polymer films in the flight clearance. The

selection of the flight clearance in the design stage

is a delicate compromise between tolerable power

dissipation levels in the clearances (which are by

n o means negligible) a n d the tolerable detrimental

effects on the process.

Yet in spite of the lubricating effect of the

molten film in the flight clearances, screw flights

d o wear with time and when the clearance gets excessively large, process efficiency deteriorates t o a

point where the screw has to be replaced or its

worn flights rebuilt.

Much of the published work o n flight clearance

effect relates to the effect of leakage flow over the

flight on the extrusion process, rather than t o the

flight clearance flow. However, Winter (1980) recently dealt with this problem. In a n interesting

paper, he analyzed in detail the non-Newtonian,

highly nonisothermal, basically drag flow in the

flight clearance. By numerically solving the

coupled energy a n d momentum equation, he concluded that large temperature-induced pressure

gradients may be generated and that also very

substantial temperature rises may occur. In one

example he calculated a maximum temperature

rise of 100 C above the barrel temperature! The

temperature-induced pressure gradients may cause

film rupture, bringing about metal-to-metal contact and flight tip wear. If the polymer melt that

passes over the flight does indeed experience such

high temperature histories, even for short periods

of time, one would expect shear and thermal degradation of the polymer. The question that arises

is, how significant is this effect? What fraction of

the extruded polymer passes over the flight? Is it

the same material that passes repeatedly over the

flight clearance o r is there a continuous material

renewal. The theoretical model proposed in

this paper attempts t o deal with some of these

questions.

motion and vibration, and that this variation is a

pseudo-random process. Consequently, the melt

emerging from the flight clearances is wiped off

the barrel in a random manner and mixed into the

melt stream flowing in the channel. The melt in

the channel flows slowly down the channel while

the cross channel barrel velocity component induces mixing a n d cross channel circulation.

The residence time distribution in melt extruders was shown t o be quite narrow by Pinto

a n d Tadmor (1970). This was verified experimentally by Wolf and White (1976). Hence, we can

visualize the flow process, for our modelling purposes, as one of plug flow in the down channel

direction with cross channel mixing and circulation. More specifically, consider a small down

channel increment AZ, as shown in Fig. 1, which

defines a control volume of T H A Z . This control

volume of melt flows down channel at the mean

melt velocity while, d u e to the cross channel circulation, it acts as a well-stirred tank. Melt flows into

the controlled volume over the trailing flight at a

given time average rate, and melt flows out of the

controlled volume over the pushing flight at the

same time average rate. This is shown schematically

in Fig. 2a. As a first order model, we can close the

loop of flight clearance flow as in Fig. 2b. The

model, therefore, is one of a small batch stirred

tank which moves steadily down channel with a

recycle stream.

At any time, the stirred tank contains a

predictable fraction of volume which has not yet

passed over the flight, and predictable volume

fractions which have passed once, twice, o r k times

over the flight. In other words, a t any time t there

will be a distribution of number of passes over the

flight. This distribution function was shown by

Manas-Zloczower et al. (1982), who calculated

passage distribution over internal mixer rotor

clearances, to be given by

THEORETICAL MODEL

where

floats in the barrel o n the molten films in the

flight clearances. In spite of the hydrodynamic

lubricating effect of these films, it is highly

unreasonable to assume that a screw, which rotates

and is exposed to substantial axial loads, is perfectly centered. It is more likely that local instanta21 4

tr

A==t

with t, being the residence time in the extruder,

given (Tadmor and Gogos, 1979) by

VOL. 3, NO.3

where Z is the down channel length of the screw, L

is the corresponding axial distance, V,, is the down

channel barrel velocity component, is the mean

helix angle, Qd is the volumetric drag flow rate,

and Q is the volumetric net flow rate. Equation (3)

is, of course, based on the isothermal Newtonian

extrusion model in constant depth channel.

The mean residence 7 in Eq. (2), is that of a

fluid element in the controlled volume and it is

simply the ratio of the controlled volume WHAZ

to the volumetric leakage flow rate over the flight

Q, over a down channel distance AZ:

FIGURE 1

A controlled

volume element of down

channel length

A 2 shown by

the crosshatched area.

Flow streams

in and out of

the element

shown by arrows.

--

down channel increment AZ given by

1

Q1= -V,,6,AZ

FIGURE 2

Schematic

representation

of the controlled volume by a

well mixed

vessel (a)

entering and

ex it ing

streams shown

by arrows, (b) a

first approximation of the

model made by

closing the

loop between

the exit and

entering

streams.

a

An expression for the cross flight pressure gradient was derived by Tadmor and Klein (1970) and it

is given by:

6pV,, tan Ob(l + e/W)(l - 6 , l H )

H2[(6,/H)3+ e/W]

+ e/W

Qp/Qd

tan

3.

ii tan eb(i - 6 , / ~ )

(7)

rearrangement,

clearance.

By substituting Eqs. (8) and (3) into Eq. ( 2 ) we

get

2w

t=-$

'bx

where

L

(L/L,)(l + e / W )

- (1 / x tan eb - H/L,)(T sin i7)

(1 1)

and

ii = tan-l[(cotan 8, - Hn/L,)-l]

For relatively small flight clearance to channel

depth ratios Eq. (9) simplifies to

(12)

Therefore, the distribution function G , is dependent on the following dimensionless parameters: 6 , / H , LIL,, e l w , H I L , , O,, and the

operating variable Qp/Qd.Assuming a square pit21 5

ched screw, e1W = 0.1 and H I L , = 0.1, Gk is

dependent only on the parameter 6,IH, LIL, and

QpIQd-

a t the exit of a ten turn long screw) with Q,lQd =

-113 and 6,IH = 0.04, is shown in Fig. 3 (curve

denoted by a = 0), and for 6 , l H = 0.1 in Fig. 4

(curve denoted by a = 0). In the former case,

where the flight clearance is small, simulation

results indicate that about 48% of the melt does

not pass the flight a t all, 34% pass the flight once,

12% pass twice, 4% pass three times, and about

2% pass four times or more. However, when the

flight clearance is increased to 6 , l H = 0.1, the

distribution function changes drastically, with only

9% of the material not passing the flights a t all,

(i.e., 91% passes the flight once o r more), 22%

passing once, 26% passing twice, 21% passing

three times, 12% passing four times, etc.

FIGURE 3

Gk functions

given in Eq.

(22) with 01 = 0

( + ) a = kt,/N

(X) and 01 =

k(tr/N --to) (0)

with e / W =

0.1, H/L, =

0.1, L/L, = 10,

Q/Q = -1/3

and 6f/H =

0.04.

however, take into account the fact that the incoming flow over the flight originate from a controlled volume which is one turn downstream,

and outflowing stream over the flight from the

controlled volume feeds into a controlled volume

one turn upstream from the controlled volume

considered. This is shown schematically in Fig. 5 .

Thus, the model is one of a string of interconnected stirred-tank-like-controlled-volumes, which

travel down channel in concert in a plug-type fashion. The inflowing stream of melt over the flight

contains fluid elements of a different number of

pass histories, characteristic to the n+l stirred

vessel (Fig. 5 ) , thus the following differential

balance can be written over the vessel n:

0.501

0*45Pi

0.40

0-251

\\

0.20

0.151

o-ol

0.0 5

I

NUMBER O F P A S S E S

FIGURE 4

Same as Fig. 3

but with 6,/H

= 0.1.

NUMBER O F P A S S E S

FIGURE 5

Schematic

representation

of a model

based on an interconnected

string of stirred vessels.

n- 1

have experienced k passes over the flight and V =

WHAZ is the volume of the vessel. Substituting

Eq. (4) into Eq. (13) gives

n+1

Now, by the nature of the model we have assumed, the distribution functions in different

vessels are identical in structure but displaced in

time, thus

21 7

where t is the actual time, t, is the total residence

time in the extruder, and N is the total number of

vessels or the number of screw turns

N = -L

L,

(16)

states that G,-l in vessel n + 1 at time t, is the same

as GI_,in vessel n after B time t

+2

,

where L-is

N

N

distance of one turn. By substituting Eqs. (1) and

(15) into Eq. (14), by iterative solution the following result is obtained

kt,/N for Eq. (18) and a = k(t,/N - to) for Eq.

(19). Figures 3 and 4 show a comparison for these

alternative models for 6, / H = 0.04 and 0.1 respectively, with e / W = 0.1, 1 HIL, = 0.1 and a square

pitched screw. For relatively tight flight clearance,

all three models give practically identical results.

But for a relatively larger clearance, the model

based on Eq. ( I ) gives a somewhat different solution than for models based on Eqs. (18) and (19).

Nevertheless, the very simple model of Eq. (1) can

be used to get very good estimates of the G,

function.

SIMULATIONS

where the superscript n was dropped and Gk is

simply the distribution function at time t.

In deriving Eq. (17) the time t,, which takes

fluid elements passing the flight to get mixed into

the vessel was neglected. This time is of the order

t,, = W I Vh,. This time delay can be approximately

accounted for by substituting k t , / N in Eq. (17) by

k(t,/N - t,,).

At the exit of the extruder, the pass distribution

function G , is obtained by setting t = t, where t, is

the mean residence time in the extruder:

( 18) becomes

where

groups derived earlier, we get

a single equation

XL

GI =-(Ik!

21 8

+ cy/t,)k-le-A(l+~rJIrl

(22)

With the aid of Eq. (19), the effect of the various geometrical and operational parameters on

the distribution function G, was investigated.

Figure 6 plots G , with 6, I H as a parameter for a 10

turn long squared pitched screw, with Q,/Qd =

-1 / 3 . With an increasing flight clearance, the

fraction of volume that experiences no passes over

the flight, drops monotonically from 70% to

below 10% in the range tested. When 6 , / H increases to 0.04, G , shows a maximum at k = 1 .

The maximum then shifts slowly to higher k values

as flight clearance is further increased. Figure 7

shows the effect of screw length at a given flight

clearance value. As expected, the longer the screw,

the greater is the chance of fluid elements to pass

over the flights. Figure 8 shows the effect of back

pressure on G , at fixed flight clearance and screw

length. An increase in back pressure increases the

probability of fluid elements to pass over the

flights. Finally, Fig. 9 plots the mean number of

passes k per one turn screw length versus 6, / H with

Q,/Qd as a parameter for a square pitched screw.

By using the curves in this figure, it is possible to

quickly estimate the mean number of passes in a

given extrusion operation. For example, a 10 turn

long screw with 6,IH = 0.07 and Qp/Qd= 0 (pure

drag flow) hasak/(L/L,)valueofaboutO.l, oron

the average, all the melt passes once over the

flight.

DISCUSSION

The theoretical model presented in this paper

enables us to estimate the distribution function of

VOL. 3, NO. 3

FIGURE 6

Gk based on

Eq. (19), with

6,/H as a

par_arneter,

e1W = 0.1,

H/L, = 0.1,

LIL, = 10,

Qp/Qd = -1/3

and square pitched screw.

o-aol

0.60

r/w=0.02

0.40

O* O

0.3 O

o .o

h

n

NUMBER OF P A S S E S

FIGURE 7

Gk based on

Eq. (19), with

LIL, as a

pararnetg,

with e/W =

0.1, H/L, =

0.1, 6,IH =

0.02 and Q P / Q d

= -1/3and

square pitched

screw.

o.eo,

o.ao\

0.60

k

0.30

NUMBER OF P A S S E S

21 9

as a

parameter,

Q,/Qd

0.70-

FIGURE 9

Mean number

of passes per

turn k/(L/L,)

versus df/H

with Q,/Qd as

a parameter

and e / W =

0.1, H/L, =

0.1 and square

pitched screw.

2.001

l.601

1.20-

0.401

220

VOL. 3, NO.3'

number of passes over the melt emerging from the

extruder. The function G, is very sensitive to flight

clearance. Thus, screw flight tip wear will have a

profound effect on it. By coupling the function G,

with a detailed solution of the flight flow as suggested by Winter (l980), and some knowledge on

the time-temperature-shear histories on polymer

properties, it is possible, in principle, to predict

the effect of the flight clearance on polymer

properties.

The model incorporates many simplifying assumptions. Specifically, the concept of a pseudorandom motion of screw in the barrel was

assumed, which leads to a random type mixing

process of melt flowing through the flight clearance into the melt channel. I f this assumption is

not correct, then the distribution function shifts

towards a perhaps less desirable situation whereby

a smaller fraction of the volume will experience

much more frequent passes over the flight, with

the bulk of the melt experiencing fewer passes.

Another key assumption in deriving the model is

that the flow in the down channel direction is a

plug type flow. This assumption permits us to

represent the process as a string of interconnected

well-stirred vessels moving at constant speed down

the channel. The assumption of plug flow could,

of course, be alleviated by superimposing on the

model an axial convection term. However, this

would considerably increase the mathematical

complexity, probably without providing a comparable improvement in realistic representation of

the actual system. Finally, the validity of the well

mixed concept across the channel can be questioned. The circulatory flow pattern does not lead

to a truly well-mixed situation, and outside layers

have a better chance to flow over the flights than

the inside ones. This inaccuracy in the assumption

will once again lead to a situation where a small

volume fraction will pass more frequently over the

flight, as compared to a larger fraction which will

experience fewer passes.

NOMENCLATURE

e

GI

GI1

H

k

L

L,

N

P

Q

Q,

Qd

Qp

t

t,

T

t,,

Flight width, m

Volume fraction of extrudate which has experienced k

passes over the flight, (-)

= Volume fraction of vessel n which has experienced k

passes over the flight, (-)

= Channel depth, m

= Number of passes, (-)

= Axial screw length, m

= Lead of the x r e w , m

= Number of screw turns, (-)

= Pressure, Nlm2

= Qd + Q,, volumetric flow rate, m'ls

= Volumetric flow rate of melt across flight into controlled value (Eq. 5 ) . m ' l s

= Volumetric drag flow rate, m ' l s

= Volumetric pressure flow rate, m'ls

= Time, s

= Mean residence time in the extruder, s

= \ i / Q , , mean residence time in the controlled volume, s

= WIV,,, approximate time to cross channel, s

=

=

= tc,/tr(-)

= Down

I*

V,,

mis

V,,

\i

=

=

=

=

=

=

=

mb

Z

PZ

cy

6,

oh

h

p

H W A Z , controlled volume, m7

Mean channel width, m

Helical length of screw channel, m

Down channel increment, m

Defined in text

Flight clearance, m

Helix angle on barrel surface, rad

= Mean helix angle, rad

= [ , i t , dimensionless time (-)

= Viscosity, N.slm*

= Defined in Eq. (9), (-)

REFERENCES

I . Manac-Zloczower. I..

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Chemistry and Technology 5 5 : 1250.

Pinto. G . and Tadmor. Z. 1970. Polymer Eng. & Sci. 1 0 279.

Tadmor. Z . and Klein, I . 1970. Engineering Principles oJPlasticating

E.vtrusion. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Tadmor, Z . and Gogo\. C. C. 1979. Principles of Polymer Processing. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Winter, H. H. 1980. Polymer Eng. & Sci. 20: 406.

Wolf. D. and White, D.H . 1976. Am. Inst. Chem. Eng. J . 22: 122.

221

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