One of the most advanced plastics extrusion laboratories in the world is now fully equipped and staffed, and process development and testing is underway. Built by the Conair extrusion group, in part to help in the engineering and testing of its own downstream extrusion equipment, the facility also allows Conair to help customers to push the boundaries of productivity and profitability.
Conair has always had one of the industry’s most advanced extrusion labs. Now, however, the recent opening of an extrusion-equipment manufacturing facility in Pinconning, Michigan, has allowed the company to create an 8,000-sq-ft (742-sq-m) lab, dedicated entirely to extrusion development and testing. The Conair Extrusion Development & Testing Lab houses four production-scale extruders manufactured by various well-known industry brands and it is staffed by three experienced full-time process engineers:
- Dave Czarnik, who manages the operation, is a tooling expert with 25 years of plastics experience and 21 years working in downstream extrusion for Conair. He holds five extrusion-related patents.
- Brian Hilton, a downstream application expert, has 22 years in the plastics industry and 14 years with Conair.
- Tony Sowiecki – 17 years of extrusion experience working for material suppliers, processors and Conair.
In addition to conducting FAT (Factory Authorized Testing) to confirm that a new extrusion line (comprised of an extruder, application-specific tooling, gauging and downstream equipment) can meet performance guarantees, the lab also conducts trials for extrusion companies. Customers can enlist the help of Conair’s extrusion experts in perfecting the line set-up of new products or experiment with new equipment or processing techniques to maximize productivity and profitability of existing product.
Finally, Conair uses the lab to develop and improve the downstream systems it manufactures. For instance, recent work has been aimed at perfecting online gauging and adaptive control for extrusion of precision medical tubing, including cardiac and brain catheters. However, the products being tested could just as easily be larger equipment for extrusion of siding, pipe or profiles.
Most extruder manufacturers have lab facilities, but often they are preoccupied with perfecting the operation of the extruder. Conair’s lab, on the other hand, is more adapted to evaluating and maximizing the performance and productivity of the entire line, including downstream equipment and even auxiliary systems like dryers, loaders, blenders and heat-transfer equipment. “No other supplier of downstream extrusion equipment has facilities that compare,” says Dave Czarnik, R&D Manager.
The extruders installed have available features like:
- Product-specific screws
- Melt pumps
- High-temperature capabilities (for FEP, PEEK, etc.)
- Discrete Controls
- Microprocessor Controls
The lab also is equipped with the latest in-line gauging equipment, including:
- Three-axis laser gauge
- Four-transducer wall unit
- Data acquisition package
- Beta LaserMike Laser Speed 9000
Also available is the latest in vacuum-sizing tank technology:
- Closed loop vacuum system
- Water temperature control system (single and dual zone)
- Flip-up precision roller system
- Easy-clean feature for medical applications
- External water level adjustment
- Vacuum-chamber-mounted wall gauge mounted digital remote pot with readout
The latest in belt puller and cutter technology is available. This includes:
- Full taper/bubble tube capabilities
- Dual servo-drive puller for extremely precise speed control
- Scrap modes
- Full gauge interface control potential
- Cutting modes to allow any cutting, including angle cuts
Internal air regulators available include:
- High speed analog (0-10 VDC) air regulators (Zumbach)
- Capabilities to integrate both internal air and vacuum sizing
The Conair Group (www.conairgroup.com) is a leading global supplier of auxiliary equipment for plastics processors, including resin drying systems, blenders, feeders and material-conveying systems, temperature-control equipment and granulators. Extrusion solutions include line-control systems, film and sheet scrap-reclaim systems and downstream equipment for pipe and profile extrusion. Over 450 individual products solve problems, save energy, cut waste and are easy to use. Conair is also an international company, with long-standing operations in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The industry’s most complete product line, top-flight engineering and unbeatable service, all combine to give processors the confidence they need to succeed in today’s competitive global marketplace.
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