Orlando, Fla. — TWWomer & Associates LLC showed its patent-pending microextruder for the first time at a trade show during NPE2018.
Visitors could find the micro yet mighty extruder on the corner of the R&B Plastics Machinery LLC exhibit. R&B Plastics Machinery is a blow molding and extrusion machinery maker based in Saline, Mich.
Tim Womer, president of TWWomer & Associates, has been a "longtime supporter" of R&B Plastics Machinery and works as a consultant for the machinery maker. He also assists with the company's screw designs and machine recommendations.
"Tim is our technical resource," said Fred Piercy, president and general manager of R&B Plastics Machinery. "It's been a very valuable relationship for ourselves, and we want to continue that for years to come with Tim."
The TWW Micro Extruder, which weighs a mere 15 pounds, was designed to enable small- and medium-size 3D printers to extrude filament from standard-size plastics pellets at faster speeds with improved reliability and efficiency.
But Womer said applications for the extruder are expanding.
"Originally the concept was for 3D printing, for medium-area additive manufacturing," Womer said in an interview at the R&B Plastics Machinery booth. "What customers are looking at doing is mounting it on a gantry, and instead of using filament, they can go straight from pellet to print, whereas all of the smaller machines now, they have to use filament."
Womer attributes the Micro Extruder's mighty capabilities to what he says is the "first such machine to use a single vertical conical screw to feed and process standard-size plastic pellets."
"The screw actually tapers and the reason is for small applications — for low output applications — typically they can't use standard-size pellets, the industry-size pellets, so by making it conical, the top of the screw is large where the pellets can fit in, and then it tapers down to give you the melting and everything else that it needs," Womer said. "That's really what makes it unique."
The TWW Micro Extruder's throughput rate can reach up to approximately 20 pounds per hour for a variety of resins, including carbon-fiber-filled ABS and polylactic acid, the company said.
Womer is also working with a customer on using flexible PVC on the extruder to make medical devices, such as catheters.
Additional applications for the extruder include manufacturing research to develop new materials and processing techniques, laboratory testing and STEM training for students.