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A Dummies Guide to Rubber Extruders

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. 

And your main goal of extrusion is to get the highest output at good quality of product.

Based on the convenience and usage history, you need to know of the two types of rubber extruders viz. Hot Feed Extruders (HFE) and Cold Feed Extruders (CFE).

And further, you have variants within Cold Feed Extruders viz. Plain Type, Pin Barrel Type and Vent Type Extruders. The recent most advanced adoption that you will come across is that of co-extrusion lines.

When you choose a rubber extruder, you should deliberate and discuss extensively upon few key things i.e the design, material technology and manufacturing accuracy of screw, barrel and die-head. While, I would cover more on them in a later post, I would like you to remember that very few manufacturers world-wide can guarantee you a well-designed and precisely manufactured rubber extruder.

Hot Feed Extruder (HFE)

Rubber industry only had Hot Feed Extruders until 1950’s. HFE’s extrude your rubber compounds at reduced temperatures.

Hot Feed Extruder with Dual Head

Bainite Machines Make Hot Feed Extruder

The screw depth of a HFE is relatively larger and you get a consistent output due to its short screw design. L/D ratio is mostly in the range of 4:1 to 6:1 which keeps your rubber compound dwell time and its temperature increase to a minimum.

Each HFE has an hopper and feed roller section with spiral undercut liner that allows your compound to enter the extruder easily. The feed roller on a hot feed extruder allows your compound to pass the scraper knife, directed around the roll and then fed back into the hopper. The feed roll bearings are placed in positions to prevent contamination. You can vary the output by changing the screw speed using variable speed drives.

Despite these advantages, the HFE’s are getting outdated in many applications.  Because the rubber that is fed into a Hot Feed Extruder needs to be pre-heated or warmed using two-roll mills to achieve the required degree of viscosity and temperature that facilitates smooth flow of rubber, its compaction and extrusion through the die.

And that made experts introduce Cold Feed Extruders.

Cold Feed Extruder (CFE)

Cold Feed Extruders are designed and manufactured with specially designed screws best suited for cold feeding of rubber. You can discuss with your manufacturer and avail various options of screws for a wide range of compound and extrusion applications.

While manufacturers offer L/D ratio up to 24:1, the most preferred by end-users is generally in the range 12:1 to 18:1.

Pin Type CFE

Pin Type CFE Image from Web

For feeding the cold rubber, it is recommended that you use a feeding conveyor with metal detector to remove metal particles. This avoids damage to the screw or barrel. In some plants, I find the sensitivity of the metal detector calibrated to a low value that it virtually renders the detector useless.

Every CFE comes with a Temperature Controller Unit (TCU) that controls the barrel temperature so that the shape and size of the extruded products are uniform.

Variants in cold feed extruders along with their uses are

  1. Plain Barrel Type Cold Feed Extruder – These CFE’s as the name suggests have a plan barrel and used in manufacturing of hoses, blanks, fluorocarbon rubber, butyl rubber, etc.
  2. Pin Barrel Type Cold Feed Extruder – These CFE’s have around 80-100 pins protruding out of the barrel towards the screw center. These pins enhance the mixing and dispersion of your rubber as it is kneaded between the barrel and screw. And the result is processed rubber with outstanding homogeneity and extrudate quality. This flexibility in Pin Type Cold Feed Extruders endears to all making it a universal extruder for many rubber compound formulations involving varied applications. Hard rubber compounds also can be processed because of high extruder torque.
  3. Vent Type Cold Feed Extruder – Vent type or vacuum type extruders were developed for production of non-porous profiles and hoses. These CFE’s have a custom-built screw, and a degassing barrel with a vacuum pump attached to vent bubbles out of extruded compounds.
Triplex Extruder

Nakata Make Triplex Extruder

Co-extrusion: Customer-specific customization and usage complexity demands led to the introduction of co-extrusion for manufacturing of various profiles. And so you today have Simplex, Multiplex (Duplex, Triplex, Quadruplex, and Quintuplex) and Roller Head technology. Multiplex lines of piggy-back type of 2,3,4, and 5 layers have a compact construction.

Roller-Head-Extruder

Berstoff Make Roller Head Extruder

Roller Head Technology involves a combination of extruder with preform head and two-roll calender. They offer twin advantages of – high uniformity of the material thickness over the entire sheet width with absence of air traps even at higher thicknesses (~ 20mm thick as against conventional calender lines that give max 3mm thick sheets with or without air traps) and excellent homogeneity of the material produced.

Both these characteristics are important for high-quality rubber products such as tire components, V-belts, conveyor belts, tank linings, cover sheets, blank sheets and roofing sheets, etc. For even thickness across the entire sheet width of the roller head, there are three options that can be used alone or in combination with one another – roll crowning, roll crossing or roll bending, that will compensate for the elastic deflection of rolls. (I will cover more on these in an another post)

In today’s world you will see that usages of these technologies are overlapped. For example, in tire industry, you can notice that
Tread & Sidewall are extruded using Simplex, Duplex, Triplex, Quadruplex Lines
Apex are extruded using through Simple & Duplex
Inner Liner are extruded using Simple, Duplex & Roller Head Technology

Rubber extrusion is in itself a vast subject, however if you know the above terms and types of rubber extruders, you have made a good beginning.


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Rubber Dispersion Kneader – The Other “Internal Mixer”

In the world of rubber mixing, when “purists” refer to “internal mixer”, they either mean a Tangential Rotor Type (aka Banbury Mixer) or a Intermeshing  Rotor Type (aka Intermix).

While “practitioners” have a third category viz. Rubber Dispersion Kneader.

When you discuss with the practitioners (mostly in Asia) it is very common to hear the terms “Kneader Banbury”, “Kneader Mixer”, “Kneader Intermix”, “Intensive Mixer Kneader”, “Internal Mixer Kneader”, “Dispersion Mixer”, “Tilt Mixer” etc being used in the same context as an “internal mixer”.

So, what is this dispersion kneader and how is this different from an internal mixer?

Dispersion Kneader

Moriyama Make Dispersion Kneader

To start with, a kneader means a machine that specializes in kneading substances, something to a dough form. I suspect it originates from Germany when Heinz List, a pioneer of modern industrial processing technology, first developed a kneader reactor to process high viscosity materials.

The respective rotor, throat, chamber and floating weight designs are different in a dispersion kneader and batch mixer (or internal mixer) . While a mixer discharges the batch through a bottom drop-door, the kneader tilts 125-140 degrees to discharge the batch. Available in more customized capacities than batch mixer, this machine can be positioned on the ground level. While a mezzanine floor is required for mixers with drop door. For similar capacities, dispersion kneaders use lower power than mixer. The mixing time is higher than an internal mixer and hence production volumes are lower in kneader.

Though developed initially for mixing thermoplastics, dispersion kneaders have a unique place in the elastomer mixing industry. Users love the ease of cleanliness on this machine especially when they have to change the colour of their compounds frequently. These machines are also easy to operate and their varied applications include

  • Oil seal, Body seal, Gasket, Belt, Hose, Tube for Automobiles
  • Rubber for Electric wires
  • Conveyor Belts & Power transmission belts
  • Rubberized Rolls
  • Rubber based products like Plug, Cap, Glove, Dental for Medical line
  • Sporting goods like rubber ball, etc

Moriyama Japan (now merged with Nihon Spindle Manufacturing Co Ltd in 2014) enjoys a leadership status in Dispersion Kneader and continues to innovate regularly. Many regional players co-exist in India, China, and Taiwan catering to different categories of customers in rubber mixing industry.

Over a period of time, these kneader manufacturers have developed designs, features and automation for high quality and optimum mixing performance to position themselves closer to the internal mixer. Hence, the confusing terminologies (that I spoke of in the beginning) needs to be viewed in this context. The only caution being when trying to articulate, discuss and solve rubber compounding issues, it is very important to know exactly which rubber machinery is being used – is it dispersion kneader or internal mixer?

Happy Mixing!


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