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Rubber Extruders And Extrusion – Special Supplement

Rubber industry only had Hot Feed Extruders until 1950’s. Then came the Cold Feed Extruders and other variations as we see them today.

Rubber extruders have a varied field of application. So, when you come across a rubber profile, strip, hose, cable, wire, cord coating, tire tread, v-belt, tube, or blank remember that they are only a few handful of products manufactured using extrusion process.

Life today is mostly spent trying to catch up with latest developments. However, in the process the basics and fundamentals are sometimes overlooked. So, in this Knowledge On-The-Go Special Supplement, we bring to you a ‘collector’s edition’ on Extruders and Extrusion incorporating the fundamentals.

(Our digital editions are available on two platforms – Youblisher or Yumpu)

Extruders_Special Supplement

Click on the Image to Flip Through The Digital Book

Download PDF Here

I hope you find this special supplement informative.

(Disclaimer: All the pictures and statements in this special supplement are sourced from web or shared by respective companies. All copyrights belong to actual owner. Rubber Machinery World does not independently verify them nor will vouch for their genuineness, hence will not be liable for any misrepresented data. The images are used here for representation purpose only.)


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Skills Required For An Rubber Extruder Operator: What No One Is Talking About

To a layman and HR Department of most organizations, an extruder operator is a person who operates and maintains this rubber machinery. Period!

Is that it?

Operator

An Image From Web

Depending upon your final product, rubber extrusion could be either a very important or the most critical manufacturing aspect of your operations. Thus the skills required for your extruder operator are paramount.

Extruded rubber products differ from those produced through moulding. In extrusion, parts are forced through a die of the required cross section under pressure of an rubber extruder. The extrusion process begins when you feed the unvulcanized rubber compound into the extruder. The rubber travels over the flutes of the revolving screw into the die, with the pressure and temperature increasing as the compound gets closer to the die. And when it reaches the die, the built up pressure forces the material through the die-opening, where it will consequently swell in various degrees based on your compound and hardness.

Most extruded products are unvulcanized before extrusion. This leaves the the rubber in a soft and pliable state post-extrusion. Hence they need to be vulcanized before they are they are rendered usable. During the vulcanization, the extruded rubber will swell or shrink in both its cross section and its length (again based on the type of rubber compound used).

Hence, the cost of errors or omissions could turn out to be very high when extruding rubber. You need a skilled operator.

Rubicon-Halle Extruder

Image of Rubicon-Halle Extruder

Here are the skills required for an rubber extruder operator.

Monitoring and Control Of Operations – The most important skill of your extruder operator should be to have a keen eye for watching gauges, dials, or other indicators in the control panel to make sure the extruder is working properly. Your extruder operator should be able to adjust screw speed, set water flow to the required rate, operate temperature control unit (TCU) or the metal detector in cold feed extruders, observe the extrusion parameters and ensure adherence to SOP (temperature or die swell). He has to ensure that the extruder, dies and its allied downstream equipment are kept clean, safety features are functional, and all accessories are ready.

Quality Control Analysis – Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance is a desirable basic skill that your operator should have. This could be as critical as preventing wastage (from scorch of your rubber extrudate) to as trivial as sending the sample to lab for testing.

Critical Thinking, Judgement and Decision Making – Operating a rubber extruder requires critical thinking skills because your operator should use logic and reasoning to identify alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems he faces while extruder is in operation. There could be many problems while extruding rubber like die-swell, melt fracture, or poor appearance amongst others. While all of them may not be extrusion related, your operator should be able to judge the gravity of the error and also decide what to do about it – whether to fine tune the extruder operating parameters, or escalate to supervisor or raise a service visit request of the manufacturer’s engineer.

Troubleshooting, Repairing & Maintenance – Your operator is the first point of contact with your extruder in operation. Hence, he should have the experience or knowledge on extruders to determine the causes of any operating errors when they occur. Performing routine maintenance and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed is an important skill that your operator should posses. He should be able to use the required tools to both repair and assist repair of your extruders when needed in the most urgent manner.

Complex Problem Solving – As a addendum to the above skill, your operator should develop skills to identify and solve complex problems when they occur at site and support maintenance department effectively over a period of time. This will reduce the downtime of your extruder and ensure maximum availability at site.

Speaking – Your operator should be able to talk to you (or his supervisor) to convey information effectively be it to report data/problems/incidents as applicable in a timely manner.

Reading Comprehension – Extruders have an operating and maintenance manual supplied by the manufacturer. This is a crucial document that requires a reading by your operator for his safety, training as well as equipment safety. Again your extrusion process would have specific work related instructions or SOP. Your operator should be able to understand written sentences and paragraphs in these documents. Hence, reading skills is very important for a successful operator. It is not necessary (while it is preferred) that they read English, because you could translate these documents to your operator’s local language for ease of reading.

Active Learning – Your operator should display active learning skills.  This is because, the sophistication of the rubber extrusion machinery has risen over the years. Automation and new controls might get introduced or new parameters of extrusion could be introduced further too –  all of which he might have to learn or get trained in.

Summarizing, your rubber extruder operator needs high level of skills to give you maximum output. Hence, its wise that either you hire a skilled operator or train your operator to upgrade his skills. Your extruder operator must stay up-to-date on current and developing technologies and techniques. He must also have a solid understanding of safety techniques and practices.


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Here’s Why TCU Is An Irresistible Ancillary For Your Rubber Machinery And Worth Your Investment.

TCU or Temperature Control Units are ancillary equipment to your rubber machinery that control process temperatures during rubber processing. During rubber processing, you continually seek optimal temperatures for the best product quality.

A TCU achieves temperature control by circulating water or an oil based fluid through the process application (in a closed loop). This results in heating of the application and temperature control of the process.

Temperature control units service a single process at any one time. In rubber industry, water is most popular circulating media.

For example, you have Three-Zone Water TCU’s for your internal mixer where One Zone supplies water to the Rotors, Second Zone to Drilled Sides (or Mixing Chamber) and Third Zone to Discharge Drop Door (and Floating Weight, RE Plates as appropriate to the mixer model). Usage of TCU in an intensive internal mixer is found to improve carbon black dispersion, eliminate first-batch-effect, maintain batch-to-batch consistency of your rubber mix compound, increase productivity, and reduce machine stress (which in turn increases the life of your internal mixer).

Similarly, you have 4 or 5 Zone TCU’s for your Extruders, where each of the zones supply water to screw, forward and rear barrels, die head, feed roll, etc as is required for your rubber extrusion process. Or you may have Two-Zone TCU for open two-roll mixing mills where each zone supplies water to your peripherally drilled or cored rolls. Most Rubber Calenders also have TCU supplying water to the rolls to control the calendering process temperature.

TCU for a 3-Roll Calender

3-Zone TCU for a 3-Roll Vertical Calender – Image from Bainite Machines Website

A properly installed, operated, and maintained TCU system gives you years of reliable operation.

Each TCU is a self-contained system consisting of a centrifugal pump, electric heater, cool/vent solenoid valve, electrical control, including a PID microprocessor controller and thermocouple along with standard safety devices like a mechanical over temperature safety thermostat, a pressure relief valve, motor overload protection, a low pressure cut out switch, etc.

Temperature Control Units come both in portable and robust sizes (depending on the application) with a variety of different control instruments, heater sizes, and cooling vales.

A Compact TCU

Compact TCU – Image from AEC Website

And you are right when you imagine that the portable TCU’s are visually appealing and popular because of their compact size.

At your installation site, you need to provide adequate water (from portable or central chillers or towers) to these TCUs from your plant water supply source. Check your manufacturer’s operations manual to verify the recommended water pressure requirement. This is important because lower than recommended water pressure can cause pump cavitations while excess pressure can damage internal components.

The pump in your TCU is used for rapid circulation of a relatively small amount of water. This in turn ensures close and uniform temperature differences between the delivery and the return lines.

You use temperature control units, when you want to preheat a process to the desired operating temperature. The heater and  cooling valve works together to give fast and accurate response to bring the water up to desired temperature or to change the settings when needed. This controls your circulating water temperature.

Here is an animation, that I found on the website of Sentra Temperature Controllers. It is quite informative and I hope you too like it. (Click on the picture to start animation)

Advantage Make TCU

Upon reaching your desired operating temperature the TCU can continue to add heat or convert into a cooling device by exchanging a small amount of circulated water with cooling water from an external source. Modern TCU have the controls wherein cooling water is precisely metered into the system by the cooling valve.

Most TCU’s in rubber industry for your machinery has temperature control from 30° to 300°F and designed for easy maintenance.

Summarizing, rubber processing under optimal temperature conditions is a must for your final product quality. And the features of TCU makes it irresistible as an efficiency enhancing ancillary equipment, which control process temperatures on your rubber machinery. Thus worth your investment.

Do you agree?


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Rubber Machinery and Make In India

The new government of Narendra Modi has enhanced India’s image in the world economy. And a new thrust is being built-up in our manufacturing arena. The flavor of the season has been the rising roar of lion (read “Make in India” logo). Their Facebook page has garnered 2.1 million ‘Likes’ while “#EASEOFDOINGBUSINESS” is popular hash tag on Twitter, reflecting the aspirations of a billion dreams.

And why not?

We have a stable and strong pro-industry government. Global economy is picking up, and India’s core advantages continue to be strong. The government has started well, and already made few minor yet important changes to improve manufacturing sector. Their intent to address obstacles across infrastructure, labour reforms and ease of doing business along with marketing of Brand India are much awaited heartening measures.

Industry Scenario

Rubber machinery comprises of equipment used for Compounding, Mixing, Shaping, and Vulcanizing.

This industry in India manufactures mixers, mixing mills, calenders, extruders, tyre curing presses, tyre moulds, tyre building machines, bias cutters, injection moulding machine, etc.

Estimated at USD 405 million (in 2014), the total market in India is expected to grow at 20% CAGR to USD 580 million by 2016.

According to the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI), currently there are 19 units in the organized sector for the manufacture of rubber machinery required for tyre/tube industry. The Indian rubber machinery manufacturing industry is a net exporter. Up to 100% FDI is allowed under the automatic route. Technology collaboration is also freely allowed.

The Indian Rubber Machinery industry is mostly a cluster of SME’s that epitomises the famous “jugaad” entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years, some have grown and compete globally. I wear the name of one such home-grown brand on my chest – Bainite Machines.

Today, some leading global brands in rubber machinery have manufacturing presence in the country through JV’s, wholly owned subsidiaries or technology license arrangements.

Opportunities Galore

Industry has witnessed growth in tandem with our growing economy in the past. Domestic manufacturers have 60% share in the machinery market. Share of imports is 40%, mainly from Far East on account of low price and shorter delivery.

An accepted approach to purchase equipment today follows this thought process – customers need to look West (Europe) for advanced technological machinery if the price tag is affordable or look to China for a low-cost replica.  Another option is to import used-machinery, which is being discarded by the developed world, at an attractive price tag.

Should this approach be refined? Yes, let me explain.

Increased deployment of used-machinery will render our domestic rubber processing industry inefficient in the long run. Because, rubber processors in the developed world are replacing the older machines with new technology machines under the compulsions to reduce the carbon footprint. Old/Used machinery has high operating cost, higher energy consumption as well as loss of productivity from higher maintenance. One industry friend said this aptly “its wishful thinking to assume another enterprises’ liability (used-machinery) can be your long-term asset (productive machinery)”.

Is it then China? Wait!

Recent statistics are interesting. They reveal China is slowly loses its manufacturing edge. And the reasons are multiple. The labour there aspires to work in hi-tech factories creating workforce shortage for labour intensive machine shops. Wages are rising over 10% per year higher than Indian labour cost increase. The rising Yuan (over 7% against dollar in last three years) makes China’s exports costlier while dropping Rupee (over 26% against dollar in last three years) makes India’s imports costlier. Reports of various forex experts suggest China can afford to let the Yuan strengthen a little bit more while Rupee will remain currency competitive as along as India’s trade-deficit is under control. Also for world-wide importers, shipping costs out of Chennai or Mumbai to most ports of the world are competitive (sometimes even lower) to that from Chinese peers.

Most tire producers around the world and few rubber product manufacturers standardize their production processes across their multiple plants. They adopt one machinery manufacturer for one particular production step and develop them to their customization requirements. This is a win-win situation for both the machinery manufacturer and end user.

It’s an acknowledged fact that Indian machinery manufacturers meet 95% of domestic rubber processing industry needs on technology and product range. Our product technologies are at par with leading brands of developed world albeit offered at great cost advantage.

This is also because leading manufacturers know their fundamentals well. We understand machinery and also rubber processing.

The importance of metallurgy, selection of the right material technology, process technology and appropriate designs that bring out machine systems which are long lasting is paramount to us. And hence, we can design and manufacture customized equipment for our customers. This is definitely our niche as compared to competitors of Far-East.

So, I feel, Indian rubber machinery industry is well positioned on the technological and logistical fronts to offer customized USPs in both domestic and export markets.

Sprucing-up

Indian machinery manufacturers have undertaken capacity expansion, upgradation in technology and adoption of best manufacturing practices to compete effectively – both in the domestic and export markets.  At Bainite Machines, we had started a phase-wise replacement of conventional machines with CNC’s since 2011. We invested in latest design and simulation software to build newer machineries like TSS from scratch, introduce latest B-Turbo tangential rotors, and offer value added sophistication to our regular machineries.

The focus is shifting to automation to create customer value. Smart automation on rubber machineries improves productivity of our customers and enhances operator safety. For example, we developed fully automatic Mixing Room technology requiring only one operator and have highest levels of safety interlocks in the complete processing line. For a large rubber processor, adopting technology and automation is sustainable because the benefits include lower cost of production (cost/kg), consistence in quality, superior aesthetics and reduce defects in throughput production.

Operator-friendly, energy-efficient, machinery that are safe, meets global compliance standards and satisfies the technology appetite is the need of the hour. Bainite Machines recognizes this and design customized machinery. Our recently built Hydraulic Ram in Mixers has a Ram up and down time of less than 3 seconds which in conventional mixers used to be 7 – 8 seconds. In a mixing cycle, there are 2–3 Ram Up and Down operations and hence this 4 seconds saving in each stroke is a tremendous boost to productivity.

Our tagline “Technology That Drives Industry” encapsulates Bainite’s dreams to be a technology driver and is equally fuelled by a passion to position an Indian Machinery manufacturer as a significant force to reckon within the global rubber/tire machinery market. Similar aspirations prevail among my industry friends.

What Next – Two Way Bridge?

Indian Rubber Machinery Industry requires further investments to raise the production volumes and technology to global scale. Volumes will give price competitiveness that our customers expect from us. Government has taken few initiatives to fuel growth and support manufacturing industry.

Equally important is the Indian customers’ recognition of the fact that machinery manufacturers must invest a part of the revenue to R&D efforts. This helps them to improve consistency, improvise continuously on quality, innovation and development of new machines. More importantly, customers can expect prompt after-market (spares and service) support when the machinery manufacturing is local.

So, squeezing the domestic machinery manufacturer to unviable price levels during commercial negotiations citing Far-East competition kills all future advancement efforts. This could then become an impediment to your progress as well tomorrow. Indian Rubber Machinery Industry needs your patronage today more than ever.

We have already demonstrated our competence and quality to the world. Rubber processors across the world are regularly reposing their faith on the Indian Rubber Machinery Industry, eventually making us a net exporter. So, there is no restraint that you could think of to establish this two-way bridge for mutual benefit.

A tinge of extra patriotism to “Make in India” can lead to a sustainable partnership between domestic Rubber Processors and Indian Rubber Machinery Manufacturers for the future and boost the domestic economy further.

Make In India

Snap shot of article as it appeared in Rubber Asia Jan 2015 Special Edition

 

(This article by Prasanth Warrier first appeared in the Rubber Asia, IRE 2015 Special Edition) 


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