The need for fast and low-cost processes for compound development is obvious when “bespoke” products are required in small quantities. In a typical development workflow, many experiments are needed for the systematic study of the effects of additives and their potential synergistic interactions. This is usually accomplished using the one-variable-at-a-time variational principle. However, if the complexity of the formulation is high, the number of experiments that needs to be conducted soon becomes prohibitive. Therefore, new, but potentially more effective additives are not easily introduced. To address this problem, the plastics processing industry is turning to the notion of combinatorics, which has been shown to accelerate R&D times both in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in other areas of materials science such as catalysis and polymer chemistry.
The contribution discusses the development of a combinatorial compounding line, consisting of a production-size twin screw extruder with four gravimetric feeding units for the addition of additives. Furthermore, the development of fast on-line and in-line analytics for compound characterization is discussed.