|Title of Invention||
COMPRESSION MOULDING SEMI-CRYSTALLINE POLYMERS
|Abstract||A process tor compression moulding semi-crystal line polymers, comprising the following operations: bringing the material 10 a temperature exceeding the polymer melting point TF; cooling the material to a temperature TLAV close to but higher than the temperature TIC at which crystallization commences during cooling; feeding measured quantities of material into a mould operating by compression; forming the article while maintaining a temperature close to TIC; cooling the article and extracting it from the mould.|
Field of the invention
The invention relates to a process for compression moulding semi-crystalline polymers.
The feature of these polymers is that they are perfectly amorphous while in the molten
state, but crystallize during cooling.
In particular, in these materials the melting point Tp, at which the crystalline phase is
destroyed, is greater than the temperature TIc at which crystals begin to form during
The semi-crystalline materials most known for industrial use are polypropylene
(known hereinafter as PP), high density polyethylene (known hereinafter as HDPE),
and polyethyleneterephthalate (known hereinafter as PET), these usually being used to
form articles using moulds, either by an injection process or by a compression
In both these processes the material is brought to a working temperature substantially
higher than the melting point Tp.
In the injection process the material is injected into a mould through one or more nozzles at a temperature much higher than the melting point to ensure that the molten material has a fluidity sufficient to eliminate or reduce to a maximum the shear stresses due to passage of the molten material at high velocity through small-diameter conduits typical of the moulds used in this process.
In the compression process a small measured quantity of material in the molten state is placed in a mould cavity into which a punch is made to enter, to compel the
material to rise into the interspace between the punch and cavity and assume its shape (mould
filling), to then commence the cooling phase within the mould.
The temperature to which the material is brought in the compression moulding process of the
known art is always much higher than the melting point, to ensure that the material remains
sufficiently fluid during the entire mould filling time, crystal formation during the moulding stage
being an undesirable obstacle.
In the first place, given the different viscosity of the amorphous and crystalline phases, crystal
formation results in non-uniform filling of the mould.
In addition, the crystals which form during the moulding stage constitute, during subsequent
cooling,'crystallization germs which can lead to non-uniform distribution of the crystallization of
the moulded article.
As a result, the article presents distortions and deformations due to differential shrinkage, together
with an excessive fragility due to a macromolecular structure which differs from one region to
WO 87/04387 discloses a method for solid state stamping of fiber reinforced semy-crystaline
polimeric thermoplastic composites providing a suitable, relatively broad range whereat the
thermoplastic composites can be stamped in the solid state.
The range of temperature disclosed in this document is from above the crystalization onset
temperature to slightly less the peack melting temperature.
The method disclosed by this document does not consent to avoid crystalization of the material of
the stamped article, and therefore is not suitable for forming articles of semy-crystaline polimeric
thermoplastic composites that must be in amorphous state to maintain their mechanical strength and
their appearance perfectly transparent.
US 4,874,573 discloses an apparatus for calendering plastic web extruded from a slot die, and a
method of operating this apparatus.
According to the method, the web is cooled after a first calendering action between a first pair of
rolls, to a temperature less than,180°C, but no reference is made to the crystalization onset
temperature of the material, and to means for avoiding crystalization of the final product.
A semi-crystalline material which merits particular attention is polyethyleneterephthalate, PET, in which the crystallization which takes place during cooling of the material from its molten state modifies its appearance from perfectly transparent to opaque, a fact which has until now limited the use of PET in manufacturing transparent articles.
In both the known processes, the duration of the moulding cycles for semi-crystalline materials is conditioned by the fact that the cycle initiation temperature TLAV,i.e-the temperature of the material filling the mould, is always much higher than the melting point Tp of the material, the
cooling times for the moulded article hence being very long.
This negative characteristic mostly affects injection processes, but also constitutes an important
limiting factor in compression moulding processes, in particular for polyethyleneterephthalate when
this is required to maintain its transparency, as will be apparent hereinafter.
The object of the invention is to provide a compression moulding process for semi-
crystalline polymers, in particular polyethyleneterephthalate, which has a comparatively short cycle time compared with that of the known an, and preserves the physical and mechanical characteristics of the moulded articles.
Disclosure of the invention
The process of the invention attains this object by virtue of the fact that the cycle
initiation temperature TLAV is determined not on the basis of material fluidity, but on
the basis of maintaining the amorphous phase during mould filling.
In the materials examined, the crystalline phase begins to form, during cooling, at a
crystallization initiation temperature TIC which is substantially less than the melting
Hence according to the invention the material is brought outside the mould to a temperature higher than the melting point, and is fed into the mould at a temperature less than the melting point and just higher than the temperature TIC, so reducing the
cycle time by the time required to cool the material from Tp to TIC
This obviously restricts the applicability of the invention to compression processes
The advantages of the invention are even greater if articles of
polyethyleneterephthalate PET are to be moulded, while preserving their transparency.
One of the peculiar characteristics of this material is that crystal formation takes place
at differential rates within a well defined temperature range.
Starting from the amorphous phase in the molten state, crystal formation commences
during cooling at a crystallization initiation temperature defined as TIC and terminates
at a crystallization termination temperature defined as TFC, and is a maximum at the centre of the range defined by TIC and TFC, to reduce progressively to zero at the
Hence to obtain perfectly transparent polyethyleneterephthalate PET articles, the
residence time within the region betweenTIC and TFC must be drastically reduced.
this requiring a cooling power which is greater the higher the starting temperature. The diagram of crystal formation rate against temperature is in the form of a substantially symmetrical curve which progressively increases from zero and then decreases towards zero, and is located within a certain temperature range between TIC
and TFC, the position of which on a cartesian diagram of which the horizontal axis
represents temperature and the vertical axis indicates the crystal formation rate is
influenced by the cooling rate.
As the cooling rate increases, the curve tends to shift to the left towards the lower
temperatures, to assume a narrower configuration.
As an example, crystal formation is substantially avoided, or reduced to negligible
terms, at a cooling rate of at least 3,5 °Osec, and preferably at cooling rate between
4,0°C/sec and 8,0°C/sec depending from the wall thickness of the article. Higher cooling rates are necessary for those articles of larger thicknesses, such as preforms, whereas for thin walled articles such as bottle caps, lower cooling rates can be used.
Suitable cooling rates are determined, case by case, by the expert of the art within the aforesaid range.
Finally, as certain mechanical characteristics of an article formed from semi-crystalline materials in general, and from PET in particular, also depend on the temperature at which the article remains in the mould, the advantages of the invention are even more apparent, which, by making it possible to use cooled moulds, enables the compression method to be used even to manufacture articles for which this was previously precluded for technical reasons.
The advantages of using cooled mould are, first of all, the possibility to obtain a cooling rate of the article between Tic (beginning of the crystallization) and TFC (end of the crystallization) as high as possible. This results in a substantial reduction of the cycle time, making it possible to manufacture with an acceptable cost.
The cooling rate from just above Tic and just below TFC (beginning and end crystallization temperatures) can be improved by the use of cooled moulds. Cooled moulds give the further advantage that the time the article remains within the mould is shortened, when the article must be withdrawn from the mould at a temperature at which the mechanical characteristics are stabilized.
For example, in manufacturing closure caps for known PET bottles for
drinks, it is of great importance to use PET instead of PP or HDPE.
One of the greatest problems presented by known bottle caps formed of PP or HDPE is that the cap cannot be salvaged together with the bottle as neither PP nor HDPE is compatible with PET.
In addition PET acts as a barrier against gases such as O2 and CO2, both because of
its intrinsic characteristics, and because of the possibility of enhancing said
characteristics by known plasma treatment, which is unsuitable for the other said
However the use of PET in manufacturing bottle caps has been impossible up to now
for various reasons, of which one of the most important is its high elastic modulus
which makes it very difficult to remove the caps from the tip of the punch in an axial
direction without unscrewing.
The use of PET for moulding closure caps is made possible by the invention, by virtue
of the decrease in cooling time and energy, which make it economical to descend
below the temperature at which the mechanical characteristics of the material
stabilize, this being 80°C.
In this respect, cooling to below 80°C starting from a temperature much higher than the melting point makes injection systems uneconomical for moulding this type of material, even if the cooling rate is not critical below TFC..-
The following table shows certain significant parameters of the semi- crystalline polymers concerned with the present invention, which make the advantages offered thereby immediately apparent.
Melting point polypropylene PP Tp pp 165°C
Melting point high density polyethylene HDPE TF.HDPE 135°C
Melting point polyethyleneterephthalate PET TF.pET 270°C
Working temp. PP in injection process TLAV.LPP 220-230°C
Working temp. HDPE in injection process TLAV.I.HDPE 170-230°C
5 Working temp. PET in injection process TLAV.I.PET 290-320°C
Working temp. PP in compression process TLAV.C.PP 15O-16O°C
Working temp. HDPE in compression process TLAV.C.HDPE 130-140°C
Working temp. PET in compression process TLAV C PET 220°C
Crystallization initiation temp. PP TICpp 125°C
Crystallization initiation temp. HDPE TIC.HDPE I15°C
Crystallization initiation temp. PET TICpgx 210°C
s Crystallization termination temp. PET TFC PET 120°C
The merits and operational and constructional characteristics of the invention will be more apparent from the ensuing summary description illustrating three embodiments thereof given by way of non-limiting example with reference to the figures of the ) accompanying drawings.
Figure 1 is a general scheme of the plant for forming articles of semi-crystalline
Figure 2 is a diagram showing the melting process for PP crystals with increasing
Figure 3 is a diagram showing the melting process for HDPE crystals with increasing
Figure 4 is a diagram showing the crystallization process for PP crystals with
Figure 5 is a diagram showing the crystallization process for HDPE crystals with
Figure 6 is a diagram showing the crystallization process for
polyethyleneterephthalate PET with increasing temperature.
Figure 7 is a diagram showing the crystallization process for
polyethyleneterephthalate PET with decreasing temperature.
Figure 1 shows a continuous feeder (1) feeding polymer granules to the loading
hopper (2) of an extruder (3).
If PP or HDPE is used, inside the extruder the material reaches temperatures higher
than the melting point Tp, which as stated is TpHDPE = 135°C, and TF.pp = 165°C.
In the final part of the extruder after the metering pump (31) there is connected a heat-exchanging static mixer (32) which rapidly cools the material to a temperature TLAV
which for PP is TLAV c PP ~ 15O-16O°G and forHDPE is TLAVC HDPE - 130-
At this temperature the material is still free of crystals and leaves the nozzle (33) to be
immediately divided into measured quantities and fed to the cavity (41) of a
compression moulding machine (4).
In the illustrated example the machine is arranged to create an article which does not
present particular mould-removal difficulties, such as a glass slightly flared and
conical towards the mouth.
After inserting the measured quantity into the mould, the article is formed and initially
cooled within the mould, extracted and finally its cooling completed to ambient
A second embodiment of the invention uses poly ethyl eneterephthalate PET to create a
perfectly transparent preform, intended for subsequent blow-moulding of a bottle.
Inside the extruder the material reaches temperatures higher than the melting point of
the polyethyleneterephthalate, which as stated is TF.PET = 270°C.
In the final part of the extruder the static mixer (32) rapidly cools the material to the
temperature TLA.V.PET, which is close to 220°C, just greater than TIC pgy, which is
At this temperature TLAV.PET, the material is still free of crystals and leaves the nozzle (33) to be immediately divided into pieces and fed, by a rotary cutting system (42), to the cavity (41) of a compression forming machine (4). During and after its formation, the preform is rapidly cooled to a temperature lower
than TPC.PET, which is 120°C, below which the crystallization rate approximates to
zero, the preform hence being stably in the amorphous state, and perfectly transparent. The preform is then extracted from the mould and further cooled to ambient temperature.
The third embodiment of the invention relates to the formation of closure caps for
Inside the extruder the previously dehumidified material reaches a temperature higher
than the melting point of PET, which as stated is TF.PET = 270°C.
In the final part of the extruder the static mixer (32) rapidly cools the material to the
working temperature TLAV.PET of 220°C.
At this temperature the material is still free of crystals and leaves the nozzle (33) to be
immediately divided into pieces and fed, as in the preceding case, to the cavity (41) of
a machine (4) for compression forming the cap.
During capsule formation the mould wall is cooled, such that the material of those
portions in contact with the mould wall is at about 25°C.
If it is not desired to preserve transparency of the material, the cooling rate is not
In contrast, if the cap is required to be perfectly transparent, of similar appearance to
glass, cooling must occur in the shortest possible time, to a temperature below
TFC PET which is 120oC, below which the crystallization rate approximates to zero, and hence the cap remains stably in the amorphous state, and is perfectly transparent. By cooling the mould, the temperature of the material is lowered below the stability
threshold for the mechanical characteristics, which as stated is about 80°C, this ensuring a material elasticity which makes it possible to remove the cap from the mould punch by axial extraction without rotating it, as is normally the case with known PP and HDPE caps. If it is desired to increase the barrier effect against gases such as O2 and CO2, this can
be achieved by subjecting the cap to plasma treatment by the method usually used for
This method comprises feeding into the bottles a plasma vapour which creates a lining
the thickness of which is typically less than 0.1 micron.
This material layer enables certain properties of the substrate to be enhanced, such as
impermeability to gases.
The plasma treatment, well known to the expert of the art, is generally carried out with
equipment manufactured by the German company LEYBOLD GmbH.
By means of the aforedescribed process a cap is obtained presenting a barrier effect
suitable for not only carbonated but also for aromatized drinks, such as beer.
Moreover the cap is of the same material as the bottle, enabling both to be salvaged
without the bottle material becoming contaminated with incompatible extraneous
material, for example in those cases in which the cap safety band remains inserted in
the neck of the bottle after opening.
1. A process for compression moulding semi-crystalline polymers, such as polypropylene (PP), high density polyethylene (HDPE), and polyethyleneterephthalate(PET), characterised by the following process steps:
- bringing the polymer material to a temperature exceeding the polymer
melting point TF;
- cooling the polymer material to a temperature TLAV, as close as possible,
but higher than the crystallization on set temperature T|Cj while preserving the
mouldability of said polymer material in a compression moulding step;
- feeding measured quantities of said polymer material into a mould
operating by compression;
- forming the article while maintaining said temperature TLAV;
- cooling the article inside the mould; and
- extracting it from the mould.
2. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein said polymer material is brought
to a temperature exceeding TF inside an extruder.
3. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein said polymer material is cooled
to the temperature TLAV inside the extruder.
4. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein said polymer material is cooled
to the temperature TLAV immediately on leaving the extruder.
5. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein the article is cooled at least to
below the temperature TFc at which the polymer crystallization rate is reduced to
zero during cooling.
6. A process as claimed in claim 5, wherein within the temperature range
between Tic and TFc, the cooling rate is at least of 3.5 °C/sec.
7. A process as claimed in claim 5, wherein within the temperature range
between the Tic and TFC, cooling rate is between 4.0 °C/sec and 8.0 °C/sec.
8. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein the mould wall is cooled.
9. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein the semi-crystalline polymer is
polypropylene (PP) and the working temperature of the polypropylene, TLAV.PP,
lies between 160 and 170°C.
10. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein the semi-crystalline polymer is
high density polyethylene (HDPE) and the working temperature of the high
density polyethylene, TLAV.HDPE, lies between 130 and 140°C.
11. A process as claimed in claim 1, wherein the semi-crystalline polymer is
polyethyleneterephthalate (PET) and the working temperature of the
polyethyleneterephthalate, TLAV.PET, equals 220°C.
A process tor compression moulding semi-crystal line polymers, comprising the following operations: bringing the material 10 a temperature exceeding the polymer melting point TF; cooling the material to a temperature TLAV close to but higher than the temperature TIC at which crystallization commences during cooling; feeding measured quantities of material into a mould operating by compression; forming the article while maintaining a temperature close to TIC; cooling the article and extracting it from the mould.
|Indian Patent Application Number||IN/PCT/2002/969/KOL|
|PG Journal Number||11/2007|
|Date of Filing||26-Jul-2002|
|Name of Patentee||SACMI COOPERATIVA MECCANICI IMOLA-SOC.COOP.A.R.L.|
|Applicant Address||17/A VIA SELICE PROVINCIALE,I-40026 IMOLA,|
|PCT International Classification Number||B29C43/16|
|PCT International Application Number||PCT/EP01/02584|
|PCT International Filing date||2001-03-06|