The determination of optimal processing conditions for PLA and PLA/CaCO3 in twin screw extrusion using DoE and multivariate analysis

Conrad Mulrennan, Darren Whitaker, Mark Billham, Fraser Buchanan, Marion McAfee

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Biodegradable polymers, such as PLA (Polylactide), come from renewable resources like corn starch and if disposed of correctly, degrade and become harmless to the ecosystem making them attractive alternatives to petroleum based polymers. PLA in particular is used in a variety of applications including medical devices, food packaging and waste disposal packaging. However, the industry faces challenges in melt processing of PLA due to its poor thermal stability which is influenced by processing temperatures and shearing.
Identification and control of suitable processing conditions is extremely challenging, usually relying on trial and error, and often sensitive to batch to batch variations. Off-line assessment in a lab environment can result in high scrap rates, long lead times and lengthy and expensive process development. Scrap rates are typically in the region of 25-30% for medical grade PLA costing between €2000-€5000/kg.
Additives are used to enhance material properties such as mechanical properties and may also have a therapeutic role in the case of bioresorbable medical devices, for example the release of calcium from orthopaedic implants such as fixation screws promotes healing. Additives can also reduce the costs involved as less of the polymer resin is required.
This study investigates the scope for monitoring, modelling and optimising processing conditions for twin screw extrusion of PLA and PLA w/calcium carbonate to achieve desired material properties. A DAQ system has been constructed to gather data from a bespoke measurement die comprising melt temperature; pressure drop along the length of the die; and UV-Vis spectral data which is shown to correlate to filler dispersion. Trials were carried out under a range of processing conditions using a Design of Experiments approach and samples were tested for mechanical properties, degradation rate and the release rate of calcium. Relationships between recorded process data and material characterisation results are explored.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2015
EventESBP2015 - 8th European Symposium on Biopolymers - Rome, Italy
Duration: 16 Sep 201518 Sep 2015


ConferenceESBP2015 - 8th European Symposium on Biopolymers


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