Compounding lines typically use twin-screw extruders. Farrel Pomini's compounding systems for plastics use a two-stage process, as a continuous mixer feeds a single-screw extruder, which builds pressure as the material goes through the pelletizer. Mixing and extrusion are separate functions.
The mixer has two rotors that are counter-rotating and non-intermeshing. Lloyd said it's based on the Banbury Mixer principle, imparting shear between the wings and the chamber. A valve at the bottom of the mixing area can be adjusted to make more intensive mixing action, or less, before the material drops into the single-screw extruder.
The length-to-diameter ratio of each rotor is just 6-1. That gives the system a lot of free volume, with large clearances between the two rotors, and does efficient mixing.
"That means that the mixer is very, very good at highly loaded products," Lloyd said. "It's very, very good at temperature-sensitive products. And it's very, very good at products where long heat history is a problem." It also handles a high degree of loading of materials like colorants, titanium, dioxide and carbon black.
That translates into polyolefins, such as polyethylene, polypropylene. Other areas include biopolymers, PET, nylon and PVC.
Farrel Pomini's core business is compounders or masterbatch makers. The capacity of the Compact Processor machines — with everything mounted on the same frame, pre-wired and pre-piped — goes up to 10,000 pounds an hour.
For larger-output systems, with rotors up to 18 inches in diameter, the company sells the mixer and extruder as separate items, Lloyd said. The giant lines go to resin manufacturers and petrochemical companies.
Lloyd said the basic process is the same: The feed rate of material going into the mixer is the only thing that determines the output rate of the extruder and the pelletizer. "So this becomes a very versatile, flexible system," he said.
That versatility is a big selling point, according to Lloyd. Compounding attracts startups, companies with new ways to target what can be a highly customized, shorter-run market for materials. "It is possible for somebody to come up with an idea, develop a product, buy a 2,000-pound-per-hour machine and run a business on it. And those people are quite attractive to us," he said.
Lloyd said Farrel Pomini wants to take a leadership role in biopolymers, now a niche area, but one he said will surely continue to grow.
But he said employees know the value of looking back to Farrel's important history: "If you walk around the old factory now… it's eerie. But it does kind of bring a little lump to your throat, when you see it, and know the stories and some of things that went on there."
And Farrel Pomini's strength comes from that history and the ability to bring that knowledge into what the company does today, in its flashy new building, he said.
"History is very important to us," Lloyd said. "The future's the future. That's what happens next, and we have to focus on that. But we can't forget what brought us here."