Numerical Design of Distributive Mixing Elements

by   Sebastian Hube, et al.

This paper presents a novel shape-optimization technique for the design of mixing elements in single-screw extruders. Extruders enable the continuous production of constant-cross-section profiles. Equipped with one or several screw-shaped rotors, extruders transport polymer particles towards the outlet. Due to shear heating, melting is induced and a melt stream is created, which can be further processed. While many variants of multi-screw extruders exist, a significant share of all extrusion machines is made up of single-screw extruders due to their comparatively low operating costs and complexity. While the reduced complexity yields economic benefits, single-screw extruders' mixing capabilities, i.e., their ability to produce a melt with a homogeneous material and temperature distribution, suffer compared to multi-screw extruders. To compensate for this shortcoming, so-called mixing elements are added to the screw to enhance mixing by recurring flow reorientations. In view of the largely unintuitive flow characteristics of polymer melts, we present an optimization framework that allows designing these mixing elements numerically based on finite-element simulations of the melt flow. To reduce the computational demand required by shape optimization of a complete mixing section, we only focus on the shape optimization of a single mixing element. This paper presents advances in three aspects of numerical design: (1) A combination of free-form deformation and surface splines is presented, allowing to parameterize the mixing element's shape by very few variables. (2) The combination of this concept with a linear-elasticity-based mesh update method to deform the computational domain without the need for remeshing is demonstrated. (3) A simple yet robust and sensitive objective formulation to assess distributive mixing in laminar flows based on a measure for the interfacial area is proposed.


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