Skippy: Our first stab on this question was put out there and a question came back on our preliminary thoughts below - concerning whether this was seen on single or twin screws. Others have observed more wear at the start of the life cycle on singles -
Buzz: Oops, engaged fingers faster than brain. The intent is not to be aggregating total screw and barrel wear as being a one side or the other phenomenon; regret it appearing to be so one sided - to continue;
In singles, we did see wear in a brief spike at the beginning of each screw and barrel rebuild for a short duration while all of the items "wore in" so to speak (remember, we were looking at situations where multiple screws and materials went into each machine).
Skippy: What happened after this initial break in period?
Buzz: We would observe a long period of wear which would be fairly predictable when on lines committed to more or less one material, and then accelerate nearer the end as the wear began to accumulate enough to cause significantly greater changes to process 'output' and we applied more and more resultant torsion to the screw and barrel interfacial region with other process variables. Our feeling was that since the screws were captive at the hub and near the gate, the torsion resulted in a greater arc in the "bend" to the screws and opened up the clearances at an accelerating rate in the 'middle' of the processing area.
Skippy: Did machine size or rate expectations play into this at all?
Buzz: Other factors coming into play did include the over-all rate as a percentage of "top end" capability since the observations were made on 2 1/2 and 3 1/2" machines and our goals did include increasing rates to "gain contribution per hour." I guess the anecdotal way to communicate this concept is the same as saying that when painting, using an 18" roller versus a 9" doesn't double the output at the same intended quality with out other factors being affected.
The other major difficulty area for our data may have been the constant change from one material to another, the various screw designs with and without various mixing elements in differing locations down the screw. Rather than having to overcome "wear" in one part of the screw and barrel with ONE screw and barrel, things were changing up and down the inter-facial area probably from just after the feed section until well into the metering sections from a number of the combinations.
Skippy: so in the end, wear begins to accumulate and . . .
Buzz: Well, once we began to be confronted with the results of leakage back over the flights, and the corresponding reduced outputs etc, the natural tendency was to try to put a toe or two out over the edge without leaping into the abyss - increase screw speed.
Skippy: Hmm. Most find that dealing with the resultant increased shear, and "residence" time for a portion of the material along with the general increase in melt temperature requires rethinking how to pump the material down a screw and barrel (with increasing wear) in differing manners versus suffering the resultant degradation, adhesive versus cohesive, flow related and sometimes aesthetic issues related to a hotter melt.
Buzz: Right. This tug of war over the abyss was generally continued until we would be delivering sufficiently high rate, continual output in terms of rate but dealing with stratified material coming out of the metering section in the 'plug flow' transformation at the breaker plate after the screw tip with a lower level of melt homogeneity. Instead of relying on the breaker plate and screens to simply help move ribbon to plug flow, we found ourselves relying on these to play an increasing role in melt mix distribution as well.
Sorry, all this once again is beyond the scope of this discussion. The short course was that it was (well past?) time for a screw and or barrel rebuild or replacement; and remember first that as processors, we need to look holistically at all the the interelated variables and manage them as just that - a whole.
Skippy: What about twin screws?
Buzz: A couple of things; on twins - yes we saw the most amount of wear at the end of the process since the forces exerted in the conveying mechanism were significantly different and other control options like screw tempering and differing feeds like starve versus flood feeding in combination with screw rpm and fusion rate modifications with the raw material supplier on formulations gave us a good many more options over the life of the screws and barrels -
Just our two cents