Add Value to Your Compounding Operation
Inside: Insights on three emerging, higher-margin growth areas for compounders.
Welcome to the Plastics Technology Compounding Supplement. You received this supplement together with your regular August issue because you indicated to us as part of your subscriber-qualification process that you or your company are involved in compounding, either via single- or twin-screw extrusion or some batch mixing process.
The intention of this supplement is to offer you guidance from some of the world’s foremost authorities on three areas of compounding that perhaps you should take a look at as you endeavor to grow your business. As the cover of this supplement indicates, we have combined these articles under the umbrella of “Value-Added Compounding.” We could have just as easily titled this article collection as “Higher-Margin Compounding.”
In one of these three areas—recycling—the technology is still perhaps in its nascent days. Of course, twin-screw extrusion has been deployed in recycling applications for years. But now, the demands of the public for products containing post-consumer reclaim material has trickled down to the OEMs and brand owners. From there it falls to the processor, and from there to the material supplier, which in many cases is the compounder. Today, compounders are starting to carve a niche in fortifying PCR material with additive packages that help breathe new life into materials that otherwise would be landfilled. Rest assured that as reclaim systems for both commodity- and engineering-grade materials start to evolve, there will be more opportunities for compounders to find a niche in the PCR space, working in the supply chain as the link between the recycler and the processor.
The other two areas focused on here have been around for decades, but for many remain mysterious, if not intimidating. Consultant Rob Jerman put his decades of experience to the task of “demystifying devolatilization.” Even nowadays, when terabytes of information are available through a few keystrokes on a search engine, there just isn’t a whole lot of information on this topic—unless you’re inclined to do a patent search. The other topic is REX, or reactive extrusion. There aren’t that many compounders performing this service, though there seems to be an opportunity. Why? We tapped into the minds of three industry immortals in this area to provide guidance on what this technology is all about, what you need to know to become a player, and where you can go for help.
Value-Added Compounding. Higher-Margin Compounding. I invite you to dig in and perhaps turn the screws.
While twin-screws get most of the glory, a quiet revolution has been taking place in single-screw compounding. In the past six to 12 months, some half-dozen new dispersive mixing elements have gone into commercial production, and more are on the way.
For the second straight NPE show, the focus in compounding is on twin-screw machines that deliver more speed and torque—thus more output—than ever before. No fewer than six suppliers of twin-screw compounders are showing such machines. There’s something to see in in-line systems as well. And there’s plenty of news in PVC mixers and pelletizing equipment, too.
Around three dozen, mostly European, processors are pushing commercial development of high-speed single-screw extrusion. They have installed more than 100 of the small hyper-drive machines whose screws turn at up to 1500 rpm, about eight to 10 times faster than standard extruders. At least two German machine builders are working on machines that will go to 2000 rpm and even higher. The goal is to raise output without increasing extruder size.