Traditionally, the design and manufacturing
of polymers has been characterised by a trial-based approach. A
large number of lab tests and pilot runs have been required to determine
which process parameters and strategies are most suitable for the
industrial manufacturing of a particular polymer. This type of approach
is costly, time consuming and wasteful.
This project was aimed at the development
and integration of hardware and software sensors, statistical calculation
procedures and advanced process control techniques for the intelligent
manufacturing of polymers. A variety of scientific and technical
problems had to be solved, including the elaboration of mathematical
models for predicting molecular and morphological properties. Sensors
were developed for measuring process parameters like solid content,
viscosity and particle size. Finally, process control strategies
were set up to ensure a safe and optimised reaction process, both
from an economical and polymer quality point of view.
Applying the new system internally, all
of the project partners have realised economic benefits, in terms
of increased productivity, reduced production rejection, more efficient
material consumption, reduced man-power requirements and reduced
design and planning time.