Compounders and resin suppliers need not wait for lab test results on production samples every few hours. Instead, they can maintain almost real-time control of product quality with an on-line rheometer. On-line rheometers process a side stream of melt diverted from the extruder. After testing, the melt is either discarded or returned to the extruder. Thermo Electron’s Correa notes that the company’s on-line Process Control Rheometer (PCR 630) is used by major resin producers whose extruders run 60,000 lb/hr. Clearly, they can’t wait to find out whether their material is on- or off-spec. The hurdle for other processors has been the cost of these units—over $100,000. Recently, two suppliers have introduced on-line models priced at around $50,000. Dynisco’s ViscoSensor is said to be the smallest return-stream on-line capillary rheometer, one that reportedly matches the capabilities of higher-end units.
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