LEBANON, ORE. — Typically compounding extruders are about volume — pumping out thousands of pounds of material.
But a centerpiece of Entek Manufacturing Inc.'s exhibit at NPE 2015 isn't about big throughput. It's about lean manufacturing.
Entek (Booth W6486) is introducing a co-rotating, twin-screw extruder at NPE dubbed the QC3 (QC-cubed). The Lebanon-based company worked with its compounding customers to optimize the new machine for quick screw changes and fast barrel cleaning.
In a way, plastics processors drove the development of the new machine. North America processors want less inventory, so they're buying smaller lots of raw material. According to Entek, color compounders are adopting those lean principles, too.
So some compounders are finding themselves needing to change materials and colors frequently, to make smaller lots for processors. The features of the QC3 mean it does not have to sit idle for long between changeovers.
During a news conference in Lebanon to introduce the machine, Entek officials described the features while an engineer demonstrated the quick-change capabilities — while being timed with a stopwatch.
Some of the features include:
• Screw self-alignment design that allows screws to be installed into couplings only one way.
• All the tools necessary for changeover and maintenance are mounted on the extruder, at their point of use.
• The extruder frame design deflects dust, and Entek offers an optional device for fast, easy barrel cleaning.
“All of these benefits were things that our customers communicated to us that they wanted,” said John Effmann, Entek's director of sales & marketing. “Their challenge to us was to design and build a twin-screw extruder that solved these problems, made their lives easier and increased their productivity.”
The QC3 at NPE will head back to Oregon after the show, to the company's lab. But Effmann said Entek already had orders for the machine, and that the design changes on the QC3 will be phased in to Entek's other machines.
Entek got into the extruder business to support its own extensive extrusion operations, making microporous plastic sheet used as separators for lead-acid and lithium batteries. The company extrudes ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene in a highly specialized “wet” process, dissolving the resin in oil and then adding silica. Entek has 450 employees worldwide.
Entek makes 325 million square meters of lead-acid battery film per year.
“We're a global technology company, and it is a high-tech product,” said Kirk Hanawalt, Entek's president and one of the company's owners. “For an extrusion process, it is about as sophisticated as it can be.”
Entek believes its experience as an extruder is a plus for customers of its extrusion machinery, because its staff can help troubleshoot their problems.
NPE will be held March 23-27 in Orlando, Fla.