Most performance additive scenarios occur when there is an existing process that needs improvement. Plant managers and supervisors, as well as operators on the mixing line, can usually identify issues that prevent operations from functioning and performing as desired. Compounding manufacturing objectives, processes, and equipment should be evaluated. For example:
• Describe the toughest problems, difficulties, and red flags on the factory floor
• Clearly define performance improvement/efficiency goals
• Identify the time-consuming steps in the current work flow
It is incumbent upon compound service providers to spend time on the factory floor with plant chemists and mixing line operators to understand their goals and concerns to help them find and implement the solutions. Other topics at the mixing plant to be considered and addressed, including:
Functional/Material Components: There are always questions about and a need to understand raw materials and their formulations. Raw materials include base polymers, fillers, vulcanizing agents, process aids, plasticizers, lubricants, curatives, accelerators and activators, protectants, colorants, blowing agents, and bonding agents (See the Material Component Overview).
Forms of Components: Different form types, such as solids (e.g., slabs, bars, beads, and pellets), liquids, or pastes impact handling, mixing efficiency, environmental issues.
Fabrication: Different fabrication methods, such as extrusion, injection molding, building and curing affect formulation requirements and performance additive selection.
Financial Considerations: Performance additives cost more than powders, but improved processing, shorter mixing cycles, and increased throughput offset initial costs
Performance improvements, process efficiency goals, and total cycle cost reductions are what compounding service providers, such as HEXPOL Compounding, identify, evaluate, and strive to implement for their mixing customers. The price of performance additives is not going to be less expensive than powders (though only a small percentage of a formulation's cost), but process improvements and increased throughput contribute to lower total cycle costs as illustrated in (See Case Study A). That's a major reason why plant chemists should constantly ask these types of questions when working with their compounding services provider. They should expect technical and application leadership.