TU Ilmenau and TITK Rudolstadt invest jointly in state-of-the-art plastics technology

A state-of-the-art plastics research facility was put into operation at Technische Universität Ilmenau today (26.04.2024). The heart of the new facility, the so-called twin-screw extruder, is used to research new technologies for processing and recycling plastics. The Thuringian Ministry of Economics, Science and Digital Society financed 90 percent of the total costs of around 500,000 euros from the "FTI Thuringia Research" funding program, while the TITK - Thuringian Institute for Textile and Plastics Research e. V. contributed 50,000 euros.

The new plastics line, manufactured by Leistritz Extrusionstechnik GmbH Nuremberg, replaces a twin-screw extruder that had been in operation for 32 years at the Plastics Technology Group at TU Ilmenau. In order to be able to use plastics and plastic products sustainably, it enables research not only into their recycling, but also into their so-called upcycling. This involves transforming used plastic objects into new products, which may be given additional functions and can then be reused. Unlike recycling, however, the items are not broken down into their original components, but used as they are. The new plant will also be used to advance research into the highly demanding processing and recycling of bioplastics and the processing of so-called highly filled plastics, i.e. materials that have been given thermal or electrical properties.

Dosing devices and side feeders can be used to to the twin-screw extruder, raw materials such as plastics, additives, fillers and reinforcing materials or even reactive components can be added, even in liquid form, which was not possible with the old system. These raw materials are melted and mixed in the extruder at a defined temperature. After volatile components have been removed from the resulting highly viscous plastic mixture by a vacuum, the new mixture finally emerges from the extruder and can be processed further, for example into plastic films, injection-molded parts for vehicles or fibers for respiratory masks.

A twin-screw extrusion system, such as the one now available on a laboratory scale at TU Ilmenau and TITK , is ideal for basic research at the university. However, the head of the Plastics Technology Group , Prof. Florian Puch, also has an eye on the significance of the investments for specific applications in industry: "The knowledge we gain with the system can be scaled up to pilot plant scale and small production scale at TITK, which conducts business-oriented research and development. In this way, we, TITK and TU Ilmenau, are jointly enabling the transfer of basic research via application-oriented research and development ultimately to industry, in particular to small and medium-sized companies in the region."

Three years ago, TU Ilmenau and TITK had already coordinated their investment strategies and purchased and installed a new sheet extrusion system at TITK in Rudolstadt. Benjamin Redlingshöfer, Director of TITK, is delighted with the joint investment in state-of-the-art plastics technology. Benjamin Redlingshöfer, Director of TITK, is delighted with the joint investment in state-of-the-art plastics technology: "With the new plant, we are covering the entire research value chain: from basic research at the university to industry transfer at TITK. It is now also fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The investment in the new facility demonstrates a lively cooperation between TU Ilmenau and TITK and is also an efficient use of taxpayers’ money."

The new plastics plant will be used immediately in various research projects, including in two research centers based at TU Ilmenau, the Thuringian Innovation Center for Mobility and the Thuringian Center for Mechanical Engineering. In future, however, it will not only be used for innovative research, but also for teaching at the TU Ilmenau. Students, doctoral candidates and trainees can now receive up-to-date training in the materials development of plastics and plastics process engineering using the modern plant technology.