Thermal Models and Energy Saving Strategies for Rotational Molding Operations
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Transient heat transfer phenomena in the rotational molding of plastic parts are modeled in this study. Natural convection and radiation from the furnace and flue gases to the mold housing are analyzed. Other models include transient heat transfer through the mold, single-phase conduction through the particulate plastic material prior to phase change, melting of the plastic and heating of the liquid pool. Subsequent staged cooling of the mold and solidification of the plastic using a combination of free and forced convection and radiation, are also modeled. The mold wall, melt, and solidified plastic regions are divided into a number of finite segments to track the temperature variation with time during the molding process. The corresponding variations in masses and thicknesses of the melt and solidified plastic regions are estimated. This information is used to estimate the energy consumption rates for various phases of the process. The model is applied to a specific molding process in a commercial rotational molding plant. Parametric studies of the effect of heating and cooling durations on the plastic temperatures and the energy consumption rates are conducted. These analyses provide insights about opportunities for optimization of the heating and cooling schedules to reduce overall energy consumption and improve throughput. The overall energy and gas consumption for the rotational molding process, taking into consideration the thermal mass of the auxiliary housing (steel) required to hold the molds, is estimated on a per-batch basis. In addition, a preliminary design for an alternative system for heating and cooling the molds using a high temperature heat transfer fluid (HTF) flowing through jackets integral to the molds is proposed.