Extrusion Training Firm Turns Art to Science

You’ve likely heard of Scientific Molding, particularly if you are a regular reader of John Bozzelli’s monthly Injection Molding Know-How columns in Plastics Technology. Now, make way for “Scientific Extrusion.”

Braulio Polanco, a graduate of the Univ. of Massachusetts–Lowell’s Plastics Engineering Program, has started a new training and consulting company whose objective is to take some of the art and “black magic” out of extrusion processing and replace it with some science. Polanco, who is production engineering manager of medical-device manufacturer Abiomed Inc. in Danvers, Mass., has created his own firm, Systematic Extrusion in Alpharetta, Ga., and bills it as “the first company to develop a data-driven systematic approach based on scientific principles that enable extrusion manufactures to produce high-quality product consistently and effectively every time.”

Polanco has worked for personal-care and healthcare products company Kimberly-Clark Corp. (KC), where he built the company’s polymer characterization lab and served as its primary contact with polyolefin suppliers, ensuring that they “tailored the molecular structure of their materials to meet our needs.” He has also worked in engineering for medical-device processors Teleflex Medical, Terumo Medical, Vention Medical, and Nypro Health Care. At Nypro, he received certification as a master molder.

But in evaluating extrusion operations at these shops—including highly complex fiber spinning at KC—Polanco noticed there was no consistent way to validate the process and a lot of confusion on how to run complicated materials, such as TPUs, that have inconsistent molecular weights. The key to consistent extrusion processing, he teaches, is “to process at the same viscosity every time.” He elaborates, “In injection molding, you can vary injection speed and monitor pressure to generate an in-mold viscosity curve. Of course in extrusion you cannot generate an in-die viscosity curve, but there are instruments such as dynamic shear rheometers (DSR) which can accurately measure the polymer viscosity and generate a few curves so you can develop limits to control the process.

“Viscosity is a function of temperature, yet there is a tendency among operators and even process engineers in extrusion to avoid changing melt-temperature settings to compensate for a change in resin molecular weight. Instead, they leave temperature alone and ‘play’ with other knobs. The systematic process we developed is similar to scientific molding. I’m confident that scientific extrusion is going to revolutionize the extrusion industry just like molding.” Systematic Extrusion has developed a series of courses held throughout the U.S. and also offers in-house training.

Polanco will be among the 60+ speakers presenting at Plastics Technology’s Extrusion 2017 Conference, scheduled for Oct. 18-20 in Charlotte. Check out the full agenda here.

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