REMCO SEES FUTURE IN THERMOPLASTIC ROLLS
By Brad Dawson,
Rubber & Plastics News Staff
GRANDVIEW, Mo. -- November 15, 2004
Roller Equipment Manufacturing Co. is continuing to support the growth of thermoplastic elastomers within the roller market by unveiling an upgraded roll builder developed solely for TPEs.
Dean Armstrong, Remco president and founder, has been a longtime proponent of the benefits of thermoplastic materials-including TPEs, thermoplastic urethanes and thermoplastic vulcanizates-for roller applications. He has designed strip building systems in the past that could be used to make both rubber and TPE rollers. But his latest machine family, the TPB 100 series, is dedicated to thermoplastics.
The redesigned roll builder provides features ideal for processing thermoplastics, including better temperature control; an improved feed system with a small autofeeder; a compact design taking up less floor space using fewer moving parts; and a head clamp system set up for quicker material changing and clean-out, Armstrong said.
He also increased the machine's output, improved the conveyor system to transport hot melt, and designed it to utilize a color blender as needed.
The roller industry is looking for new markets and materials, although there has been reluctance in the past to embrace thermoplastic elastomers as an alternative to rubber, Armstrong said. ``That's to be expected, because when something's totally new, there's a lot of uncertainty,'' he said. ``(Customers) want to be sure there's a market for it. When the time comes to jump on the bandwagon, they don't want to be the first.''
Between the time Remco first designed its thermoplastic builder and its recent refinements, talk about TPEs within the industry has increased substantially, he said. ``The process has improved so much and the time required to process has been reduced to where it compares with thermoset materials. There's also no post-cure required.''
Remco most recently gave potential customers the opportunity to see its newest thermoplastic builder at a Nov. 10 open house held at Huntsman Polyurethanes' technical center in Derry, N.H. The event gave Remco a chance to demonstrate and answer questions about its TPE roll builders and Huntsman a forum to do the same with its specialty materials.
Becky Snell, Remco sales manager, said skeptical customers have been impressed with the TPE rollers' quality after they see them. ``Their faces lit up,'' she said. ``They like the product.''
In comparing costs for producing a 100-pound, 50-inch TPU roller with a liquid cast urethane roller of the same size, Remco claims there is a 23-percent total savings per roller with the thermoplastic building process. The material cost is comparable, but the labor cost is where the savings are realized, Armstrong said.
Also, since the thermoplastic material is recyclable, it can be recovered and reused to make other products after the roller fails, as opposed to being wasted.
TPE rollers can serve many applications, including the technical packaging industry or other markets where thermoplastic properties lend themselves well to the product, Armstrong said. The rollers seem to fit in with applications where the price must be kept low, as a replacement for lower grade polymers, but also in highly engineered environments because of the material's performance qualities, he said.
The TPE roller also can bridge the gap for customers looking for a viable economic solution in larger sizes. ``Injection molding covers smaller roll sizes for say, office machines or other high-volume uses,'' he said. ``We come in for the larger sizes.''
Armstrong doesn't see thermoplastics as a general replacement to rubber for roller production, but in some applications they can be complementary to or a replacement for most thermoset materials.
``It can be a high-quality choice for a company to offer, especially in some specialized areas where some basic rubbers can't be used,'' he said. ``TPEs won't serve all needs, but will meet needs never before served.''
And as more companies discover the benefits of the materials, more processors will see the value of his TPB 100 machines, Armstrong believes. ``These materials open up a lot of markets out there,'' he said. ``We believe customers will find ways to use this machine.''