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On the bursting of linear polymer melts in inflation processes

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Molten LLDPE and HDPE plates (thickness 2 mm) have been inflated into a circular cylinder (inner radius 31 mm) under isothermal conditions. Low deformation rates allow the plates to be inflated considerably into the cylinder, and at high inflation rates an early burst is observed. Axis-symmetric numerical simulation of the inflations have been performed, using a constitutive equation in the form of a separable memory integral where the strain dependence is described by the Linear Molecular Stress Function (L-MSF) model with dissipative convective constraint release. The material parameters in the constitutive model are obtained using liner viscoelastic (oscillatory shear) and uni-axial elongational measurements. The numerical simulations were performed for inflation of a flat plate and a perturbed plate, where a small circular cone was removed from the centre of the surface of the plate. This was done in order to investigate the stability of the inflations. It is shown that all of the inflations are hydrodynamically unstable, though the effect on the occurrence of the burst is limited. One exception is at slow inflation, where an unexpected burst may appear as a consequence of minute deviations from an ideal flat plate. All of the numerical calculations show quantitative agreement with the experiments for a wide range of experimental conditions. This strongly suggests that the initiation of the burst is a hydrodynamic phenomenon. The critical parameters in the inflation of molten linear polymers have been investigated using the Gel equation as a memory function (M(s)=Ans(-(1+n))) and inflating the plate with a constant velocity for the top of the plate. The hydrodynamic burst in a linear polymer is mainly associated with the linear viscoelastic properties and only slightly with the non-linear strain dependence. Increased (linear) elasticity reduces the inflated volume, at the same inflation velocity, before the burst occurs. Furthermore, the critical parameter for the occurrence of the burst (whether or not the burst occurs) is related to the crossover point (G '= G '') in linear viscoelasticity.

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