Process simulation and optimisation of thin wall injection moulded components
2013-11-07T12:49:39Z (GMT) by
Integrally moulded hinges and tension bands are important features in packaging components for plastic closures and their function is critically dependent on the flow induced micromorphology in the hinge section. Polymer characteristics and processing of the hinge also have an influence on the hinge properties obtained. This study is aimed at obtaining interrelationships between polymer characteristics, in-cavity flow, microstructure development and hinge properties, to produce hinges with enhanced functional properties. Three different virgin polypropylene (PP) grades were investigated (homopolymer PP-H, random copolymer PP-RC and impact copolymer PP-IC) and injection moulding simulation was carried out using Moldflow software. In-cavity data acquisition has been carried out for different sets of injection moulding conditions, using high performance transducers and a data acquisition system. A comparison between Moldflow simulation and practical injection moulding data suggests that, for thin wall injection moulded components the real time pressure data are in close agreement during the injection stage. During the packing stage there is some disagreement between these data, since the thickness of hinge and tension band sections are 0.4 mm and 0.5 mm respectively, suggesting that these dimensions are extending the capability of the software.An extensive study using a design of experiments (DoE) approach was carried out on both practical and predictive data. Injection velocity and melt temperature were the most influential factors on the component mechanical properties. From the optical micrographs it is observed that PP-RC has a finer micro-structure compared to PP-H and PP-IC and some micrographs confirm Moldflow simulation results in which hesitation effects are evident, as the flow converges into the thin hinge and tension band sections. PP-clay nanocomposites (PP-CN) were prepared using a twin screw compounder. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has shown some evidence of dispersion and exfoliation of the clay particles in the PP matrix. However, X-ray diffraction (XRD) results show a reduction in inter-layer spacing of PPCN s possibly due to clay compaction. The addition of nano-clay however has not resulted in any significant improvements in the mechanical properties of hinges and tension bands. The high degree of molecular orientation induced in the hinge and tension-band sections appears to mask any improvements attributed to the addition of nano-clay. From the reprocessed and post consumer recyclate (PCR) study conducted on hinges and tension bands, it is seen that with an increase in both the re-processing and PCR content there is a decrease in the component strength of around 14%, giving scope to potentially use PCR in future packaging applications. Investigations conducted on colour pigments (violet and green) reveal that the onset of crystallisation for green pigmented mouldings is considerably higher (16°C) than for natural and violet mouldings. Optical micrographs also reveal a finer microstructural texture for green components, indicating a high nucleating capability of the green pigment. Irrespective of the colour, both for hinges and tension bands, the yield stress values were around twice as high as the values quoted in the manufacturer s data sheet for isotropic PP, due to the high levels of molecular orientation in the hinge and tension band sections. In order to industrially validate the findings from the DoE study, commercial closures were produced in industry on a production tool then characterised. In the case of tension bands, there was a good agreement between the results obtained from lab scale and industrial study due to the relatively simple geometry. For hinges this agreement is not so clear. Finally a comparison of mechanical properties of the 3 PP grades shows that PP-H has a higher yield stress compared to PP-IC and PP-RC and yield stress is significantly higher (yield strain values are lower) than values quoted by the manufacturer. The PhD study has confirmed the process conditions that are able to optimise all the interactive effects to improve functional properties in high volume parts in the packaging industry.