Profile extrusion of wood plastic cellular composites and formulation evaluation using compression molding
Islam, Mohammad Rubyet
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Wood Plastic Composites (WPCs) have experienced a healthy growth during the last decade. However, improvement in properties is necessary to increase their utility for structural applications. The toughness of WPCs can be improved by creating a fine cellular structure while reducing the density. Extrusion processing is one of the most economical methods for profile formation. For our study, rectangular profiles were extruded using a twin-screw extrusion system with different grades of HDPE and with varying wood fibre and lubricant contents together with maleated polyethylene (MAPE) coupling agent to investigate their effects on WPC processing and mechanical properties. Work has been done to redesign the extrusion system setup to achieve smoother and stronger profiles. A guiding shaper, submerged in the water, has been designed to guide the material directly through water immediately after exiting the die; instead of passing it through a water cooled vacuum calibrator and then through water. In this way a skin was formed quickly that facilitated the production of smoother profiles. Later on chemical blowing agent (CBA) was used to generate cellular structure in the profile by the same extrusion system. CBA contents die temperatures, drawdown ratios (DDR) and wood fibre contents (WF) were varied for optimization of mechanical properties and morphology. Cell morphology and fibre alignment was characterized by a scanning electron microscope (SEM). A new compression molding system was developed to help in quick evaluation of different material formulations. This system forces the materials to flow in one direction to achieve higher net alignment of fibres during sample preparation, which is the case during profile extrusion. Operation parameters were optimized and improvements in WPC properties were observed compared to samples prepared by conventional hot press and profile extrusion.