Production capacity doubled and energy consumption reduced
Econcore, a leader in technologies for economic honeycomb sandwich production and Thermhex Waben, a producer of polypropylene honeycomb cores for lightweight sandwich have both recently installed MEAF H-Series extruders within their state-of-the-art production facilities.
Thermhex Waben installed its first MEAF extruder in 2015, the 75-H34. Impressing with its results and durability, in November 2021 the company invested in a second MEAF extruder to work alongside the existing one. another 75-75 mm and a 34:1 L/D-ratio screw.
Fitted with special features to connect the two extruders and by combining both production streams Thermhex Waben was able to double capacity and with most efficient energy usage.
The company has increased its theoretical capacity in production honeycomb cores from 500 kg to 1000 kg per hour, which is equivalent to 3,000 tonnes per year in two-shift production.
MEAF extruders offer a significant sheet extrusion line energy efficiency over its competition, in a direct comparison MEAF’s 75-H34 extruder, as used by Thermhex Waben, recorded 0.18 – 0.22 kW/kg, a significant saving over a competitor of MEAF’s 0.50 kW/kg. Besides the substantial energy savings (10 – 65% less energy per produced kilogram of product required), the MEAF H-series extruders are suitable to extrude multiple materials with same screw and barrel, reduced polymer degradation due to low friction extruder design as well as minimal flow and pressure fluctuations, even at higher outputs.
Thermhex Waben’s parent company Econcore introduced its first MEAF’s 50-customised 75-H34 extruder for its pilot line in 2017, which features the same screw ratio but a smaller barrel and customised features compared to the Thermhex MEAF lab extruder. In view of more profound industrial scale-up activities for its new rPET honeycomb core, Econcore needed an additional larger industrial scale extruder with a compact design so that it could fit within its technology lab environment upscaled demonstration line. It also needed to efficiently handle RPET flakes and a range of engineered polymers used in the production of RPET and HPT (high performance thermoplastic) honeycomb cores. The 75-H34 offered this and retained the same screw ratio, barrel, and customised features as the previous extruder. Econcore’s RPET honeycomb, using recycled post-consumer PET flakes, offers a sustainable source which doesn’t compromise on mechanical benefits. And the energy efficiency of the MEAF extruder was another reason for Econcore to choose the extruder over any other. This resonated strongly with the company’s focus on sustainable production as well as sustainable materials.
One issue faced by Econcore when searching for the right extruder was their temperature ranges for high performance polymers like PEI. For polypropylene, more conventional extruders typically offer a temperature range of 80C to 300C. However, this was too low and MEAF’s extruder was capable of offering a higher temperature range from 200C to 400C, fulfilling the requirements to extrude RPET and a certain range of engineered polymers.
Wouter Winant, Technical Manager at Econcore said: “We required an extruder that offered a high temperature range, the customised 75-H34 extruder offers a temperature range PEI of 200-400C whereas more standard, conventional extruders are typically limited to 300C. With MEAF being based locally to Econcore it enabled a seamless installation process for the 75-H34 extruder.
“Our relationship with MEAF extends across not only ourselves at Econcore and Thermhex Waben but also our licensees. Our technologies for automated continuous production of thermoplastic honeycombs are available for licensing. The trust that we have built in MEAF’s extruders over the last couple of years is demonstrated by our willingness to recommend their products to all of our licensees.”
Dr. Jochen Pflug, CEO of both Econcore and Thermhex Waben, added: “The demand for more sustainable, lightweight, high rigidity materials are constantly growing and to cope with the influx of demand it is important for Thermhex Waben to grow our production capabilities. MEAF’s 75-H34 extruder has allowed us to expand production capacity significantly.”
“It is wonderful to see our extruders being used in the production of new and innovative materials such as the RPET and polypropylene honeycomb cores,” said Ardjan Houtekamer, Technical Director at MEAF. “Both Thermhex Waben and Econcore’s production processes embody our vision of sustainability and minimising our impact on the environment.”