Rapid rotational foam molding of polyethylene integral-skin foamed core moldings
Christian, Kimberly Anne
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This thesis focuses on the design, development, and evolution of a novel patent-pending plastic processing technology entitled “Rapid Rotational Foam Molding” with special emphasis on the processing of polyethylene (PE) integral-skin foamed core moldings. Rapid Rotational Foam Molding is a technology deliberately designed to address the intrinsic disadvantage of conventional rotational foam molding, i.e., its very long cycle times. In this context, a physical system that exploits the positive synergistic effects of innovatively combining extrusion melt compounding and rotational foam molding was designed and built. The fundamental processing steps of this system comprise (i) rotationally molding a non-foamable PE powder in a lab-scale oven while, (ii) simultaneously melt compounding and foaming a pre-dry blended foamable PE and chemical blowing agent (CBA) formulation in an on-line lab-scale extruder, and then (iii) filling the newly created foaming material into the non-chilled hollow article thereby created in the mold through a special interface. Two varieties of PE resins ranging from linear low density PE (LLDPE) to high density PE (HDPE) were selected for experimentation with melt flow rates (MFR) ranging from 2.0 to 3.6 g/10min. The implemented CBA was Celogen OT. The materials were characterized using thermal analysis techniques such as differential scanning calorimetery (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) to ensure their correct operating temperatures ranges. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was utilized for characterizing the quality of the foam samples and achieved skin-foam interface for the final moldings. Improvements to the achieved molding quality were accomplished through various system and process modifications described throughout this research work.