The renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) in Pfinztal in Southern Germany intensifies its research activities in the field of foamed plastics using the ZE 30 / KE 60 Schaumtandex line delivered by KraussMaffei Berstorff.
This line is designed for the production of new products in a direct expansion process, for material modification and for the development of new process variants.
“Foamed plastics products play a crucial role in insulation solutions for the management of heat, cold and sound”, explains Florian Rapp, head of the ICT foam division. “There is an enormous market in this field as light-weight foam products featuring high structural stability are used in the building and packaging industries as well as in the automotive sector.
Ever new requirements in terms of flame proofing and thermal conductivity as well as the blowing agents used in the production of expanded products offer a huge research potential”, adds Florian Rapp. For many years, the Fraunhofer ICT has developed foam products and recipes within the frame of self-initiated projects and in cooperation with partners in industry.
Strong demand for eco foam
During the last six months, the researchers have been able to produce directly foamed semi-finished products on their laboratory-scale ZE 30/ KE 60 Schaumtandex line. “Despite the relatively short time frame, we have already carried out extensive research work on our new line”, declares Florian Rapp with satisfaction. Eco foams that are also used in the building and packaging sectors as well as for automotive applications are currently of particular interest.
They combine the special benefits of foam products like dimensional stability, light weight and insulating effect with environmental compatibility. The ICT has performed various projects using cellulose or PLA based particle foam with excellent results. The researchers now intend to transfer the positive experience to extruded foams. The same applies to foamed engineering plastics like PET or materials with nanoscale reinforcing agents that are much in demand and for which the ICT has already gathered a lot of research results.
Unique machine combination
Almost one year ago, KraussMaffei Berstorff extended its Schaumtandex family by a laboratory-scale machine. “With over 80 ZE/KE combinations sold so far, we count among the market leaders in this sector“, declares Matthias Reimker, project manager for foam extrusion lines at KraussMaffei Berstorff.
“We have a wealth of experience we can draw on – also in terms of processing parameters - and our twin-screw/single-screw extruder configuration is simply unique in this sector”. The extensive experience and first-class references immediately convinced the ICT researchers. “The cooperation with KraussMaffei Berstorff offers a huge synergy potential both for our internal research activities as well as for development projects for external project partners”, says Florian Rapp, explaining ICT’s decision to purchase the Schaumtandex line.
The line comprises a twin-screw extruder used as primary extruder for efficient and gentle compounding of polymers with incorporated additives and homogenous mixing of eco- friendly blowing agents in liquid form. The modular configuration of the extruder barrels and screws and their resistance to high melt temperatures of up to 350°C are of particular benefit. This gives unparalleled flexibility, which is a crucial asset in the production of foamed engineering plastics. The Schaumtandex line is completed by a generously dimensioned secondary single-screw extruder for melt cooling.