Revolutionary die lip adjustment system to be introduced at K 2022
For years, automated lip adjustment has been achieved using thermally actuated bolts. Thermal bolts are highly influenced by external factors, so thickness uniformity and consistency are sometimes hard to realise. Thermal bolts also typically require manual pre-tuning, so the process is not fully automated and hard to repeat consistently. Though effective and proven, it became clear that manufacturers needed a next level solution to meet their production needs.
Excellent product uniformity, increased automation“When we spoke with global customers, it was clear that they need more than excellent product uniformity – they need increased automation. When skilled workers are hard to find, straight-forward process control with less operator intervention is key to increasing a production line’s overall profitability. We knew there must be a better way,” says Scott Smith, global product managing director for Nordson’s EDI die business.
After an initial concept was developed and specified, Nordson selected the Proflow family of actuators by Honeywell’s Process Solutions team to bring the new Prodigi die to market as quickly as possible. Instead of using thermal bolts to control the lip adjustment, the Prodigi die relies on a series of motorised actuators connected to the die’s flexible lip. The installed actuators smoothly translate motor rotation into precise linear movement to locally open and close the lip. Accomplishing this away from the hot die, at a user interface, creates a process that is much faster, safer, and more energy efficient.
A proven success for extrusion and fluid coating applicationsTo evaluate the system, Nordson conducted a series of extrusion and fluid coating trials at its EDI Technology Center in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, USA, as well as a series of extrusion trials at the Fulton, New York, USA laboratory of Davis-Standard, LLC. As a world-class line supplier, Davis-Standard has been one of the EDI business’ preferred partners for several years and provided the perfect test environment for the first production-ready Prodigi die. “We are pleased to be the systems integrator for the measurement and Prodigi die systems, raising the performance bar for all of our customers,” stated Ricky Keller, VP market development with Davis-Standard’s Converting Systems line of business.
“We achieved great results when we evaluated this new technology,” says Sam Iuliano, EDI chief technologist. "During our initial lip gap setting trials at Davis-Standard, we successfully closed the lip by 0.015" in only 35 seconds. With a conventional automatic die, this procedure would involve using feeler gauges and iterative manual adjustments, which, in stark contrast, takes about 15 minutes to complete with reasonable accuracy." The first round of tests at Davis-Standard, using multiple LyondellBasell resins and an NDC Technologies scanning system, also clearly showed how beneficial the Prodigi system is when it comes to both product uniformity and control speed.
"We set the desired lip gap, and when we started, the initial thickness variation was +/- 25%. Within a matter of 44 seconds, the thickness variation decreased significantly, and after only three minutes from engaging Automatic Profile Control (APC), we had an almost perfect gauge over the complete length of the die. This compares to an average of 12 minutes to achieve the same tolerances using conventional thermal actuators. Customers will save significant time and be able to exactly repeat their production cycles. This will create much less scrap and add more productive time since final tolerances are achieved so quickly," explains Iuliano.
“We have tested the Prodigi die system in comparison to current thermal bolt dies and the Prodigi system has proven to raise the performance bar an order of magnitude. I have witnessed step changes in APC over the past 40 years and the Prodigi system is definitely a large step forward for profile control of flat dies,” noted Ricky Keller of Davis-Standard.
“Throughout the trials, we were impressed by how fast the Prodigi die system is. We launched a saved lip profile recipe from a previous run and produced exceptionally flat film in only 30 seconds,” says Iuliano. “Davis-Standard stated that they usually need 8 minutes to achieve the same tolerances from recipe launch with conventional thermal actuators.”
A win for efficiencyAnother benefit of the Prodigi system is its high energy efficiency since the motorised actuators operate at a much lower temperature than thermal bolts. While the thermal bolts need constant heat during a production run, the Prodigi motorised lip actuator system uses little to no power after achieving steady state operation, reducing the overall energy consumption and environmental impact.
In fact, it is projected that the Prodigi actuator system, under normal use and on an annual basis, would consume less than 1% of the electricity needed to operate a comparable thermal die bolt system. “Finding technical solutions requires imagination and creativity. We used both to create this innovative system that has the potential to change the industry and prepare producers for the future. We are enormously proud of what we achieved,” says Smith. Iuliano adds, “We cannot wait to bring this to K 2022 and show our industry colleagues the latest in EDI die technology.”www.nordsonpolymerprocessing.com