Resistance Welding Process Development and Optimization for Recycled High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)


Large recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) structural members, difficult to manufacture by extrusion processes, have been created by the hot plate welding of simple plastic lumber sections. Hot plate welding generates better joint strength than any other welding method currently employed in plastic manufacturing. However, to achieve the desired temperature of the thick plate to melt the polymer uniformly, the process needs a high amount of heat energy requiring furnace (or resistance) heating of a considerable mass. A new method which could combine the heating element and a thin plate into one source could be more efficient in terms of heat loss and thus energy used. The premise of this investigation is to replace the hot plate with a very thin piece of high resistance nickel-chromium alloy ribbon to localize the application of heat within a plastic weld joint in order to reduce energy loss and its associated costs. This resistance ribbon method uses electrical current to reach an adequate temperature to allow for the welding of the HDPE plastic. The ribbon is only slightly larger than the welding surface and very thin to reduce the loss of excess heat through unused surface area and thick sides.

The purpose of this project was to weld recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) using resistance welding and to match the tensile strength results considered acceptable in industry for hot plate welding, that is, equal to or greater than 80% of the base material strength. Information obtained through literature review and previous investigations in our laboratories established welding (heating) temperature and time as testing factors. Designed experimentation considered these factors in optimizing the process to maximize the weld tensile strength. A wide-ranging full-factorial experimental design using many levels was created for the initial testing plan. Tensile strengths obtained after welding under the various condition combinations of weld temperature and time revealed a region of higher strength values in the response surface. After the wide-range initial testing, the two control parameters, heating temperature and heating time, were ultimately set up in a focused Face Centered Cubic (FCC) Response Surface Method (RSM) testing design and the tensile strength response was then analyzed using statistical software. The results obtained indicated a strong correlation between heating time and heating temperature with strength. All welded samples in the final testing set exhibited tensile strength of over 90% base material, meeting the goal requirements. A full quadratic equation relationship for tensile strength as a function of welding time and temperature was developed and the maximum tensile strength was achieved when using 280°C for 60 seconds.

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