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YRPM’s Tandem Internal Mixer: Meeting Market Demand through Continuous Innovation
Source: China National Chemical Corpor Date: 2020-08-11

In 2020, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery, a subsidiary of CNCE, successfully developed the world’s first GE420/GE800T and China’s largest GE580/GE1000T tandem-type internal mixers, making new progress in technology development and product serialization and industrialization.

As a leading supplier of equipment and technology for tandem mixers in China, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery, in recent years, has strengthened product innovation, R&D and marketing based on its own technical advantages and in line with industry trends and market application needs. The series of products and unique solutions not only meet the customized production needs of all customers in the tire and rubber products industry, but also help Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery to achieve new development.

Blazing a new trail for achieving technological breakthroughs

Rubber, the most excellent high-elasticity material in nature, is widely used in various fields such as tires, conveyor belts, rubber hoses, seals, and engineering shock absorption. However, the high elasticity also makes it difficult to process and manufacture rubber. As the core equipment of rubber processing, the mixer mainly functions to evenly disperse various chemical additives and reinforcing fillers into rubber, and to shear long molecular chains of rubber into short ones so that they can be processed into a specific shape.

Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery is one of the earliest Chinese enterprises to introduce internal mixer technology to develop and produce it domestically. In 1985, under the strategy of “localization of radial tire equipment” of the former Ministry of Chemical Industry, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery introduced the technology of internal mixer from Germany, initiating the localization of relevant R&D.

In 1985, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery signed a technical agreement with Germany’s Krupp WP Corp.

After over 30 years of development, its series of mixers cover 30-odd meshing and tangent models with a capacity ranging from 1.5 L to 1,000L. They are applied to a host of rubber product fields such as tire manufacturing, engineering and medical rubber, aerospace, wires, cables, and conveyor belts. Among them, multiple technologies such as the one-step intelligent mixing production line and varieties of products such as the large-capacity meshing mixer are the first independently developed by the Yiyang-based company, which will help China’s mixer technology leap onto a new level.

In 2007, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery produced the then largest GE580 internal mixer in China

With higher requirements for global environmental protection and for the performance of rubber products, green rubber products and tires has become the trend of the global rubber industry, with reinforcing agent silica put into use in large amounts. Silica-silane-filled compounds have a more demanding mixing process than conventional carbon black compounds, requiring precise control of the chemical reaction. The mixing process becomes the decisive step for all subsequent processing steps and even for final properties of the compound.

Therefore, it is essential to develop an appropriate mixing system. The idea of a tandem internal mixer, a mixing system originally proposed by German engineers, was not accepted by the market due to the immaturity of the technology and the instability of product performance.

“After a comprehensive study, we decided at the time that this would be a vital trend. If people don't want to do it and we make it, it will not only help the industry achieve a breakthrough but also become our core strength. The key problem we need to solve is to refine the technology of tandem mixer, make the product more stable and give full play to its advantages naturally.” Jin Jinyao, Chief Engineer of Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery, introduced.

Having identified the direction since 2008, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery has organized its elite team to be dedicated into the R&D of tandem-type internal mixers. However, there is no proven experience to draw on, so it has to nudge its way to break up bottlenecks.

Looking back on that time, Peng Zhishen (now deputy chief engineer and chief expert of Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery), who was the technical head of the R&D project, can still vividly remember their painstaking efforts. “It was a difficult process. Every time you made a change in a drawing, you had to repeat calculating each step carefully. Often you needed to waste a lot of time for no reason.” She said, “What is more difficult is the uncertainty of the results. It was a time when we all spared no efforts, but honestly none of them were sure that they could produce results. And when would we get results? Would the results be accepted by the client?”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. After two years of diligent exploration, the year of 2010 witnessed Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery launched the world-leading GE320/GE590T tandem-type internal mixer, which was successfully applied to the production line of the Triangle tires.

In 2010, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery launched the GE320/GE590T tandem-type internal mixer.

This marked a milestone in the history of China’s tire production technology. It changes the mixing process from multi-stage to one-stage mixing, with temperature controlled easierly. Compared with the traditional mixing process, the tandem mixing technology increases the efficiency of rubber mixing by more than 60%, saves 20-50% of electrical energy, reduces investment in plant and equipment by 20-30%, and cuts environmental costs and operating labor and logistics expenses. This is a great advantage for tire companies that are constrained by two key cost factors: energy conservation and environmental protection as well as labor. The features of high efficiency, environmental protection and energy saving make it an instant hit, gaining popularity among customers.

Continuous investment in technological advancement

With the promotion of the market, the test of practical applications and the improvement of performance, the rubber industry has gradually increased the recognition of the tandem mixer. In particular, with the mandatory implementation of the EU tire labeling law, relevant enterprises will prioritize the use of tandem mixers for the production of high-quality compounds to manufacture domestic exports of passenger-car tires, with the demand for tandem mixing equipment starting to skyrocket.

Based on customers’ applications, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery continues to invest in R&D and product innovation of tandem mixer technology and products.

Chief Expert Peng Zhishen and his technical team at the workshop.

The first is the investment in talent and platform. Scientific and technical personnel are an important factor behind the success of project development. Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery has established a R&D team of tandem-type internal mixer with its strongest backbones. The enterprise has used relevant platforms such as Peng Zhishen’s “Huizhi Xinghua Model Worker Innovation Studio”, so that experienced engineers and junior technical staff can form a working group and, in the project research and practice, can train a pool of strong technical R&D talent.

Using the national technology center and post-doctoral research station, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery has promoted the integration of production, learning and research institutions by cooperating with Central South University and Qingdao University of Science and Technology’s post-doctoral mobile station to jointly develop new products, solve technical bottlenecks and heighten research and innovation.

The second is funding. In 2011, ChemChina applied for more than 13 million yuan of central state-owned capital operating budget for major scientific and technological innovation and industrialization funds for Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery’s R&D of tandem-type internal mixer. Every year, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery pours huge investments into the R&D of tandem-type internal mixer, with a total investment of over 65 million yuan up to now.

To promote the virtuous cycle of R&D and application of tandem internal mixer, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery proactively opens up for innovations. At Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery, innovations in the tandem-type internal mixer technologies and products are not just the business of the technical department. The cross-functional work team adopts an open and innovative approach to maximize sales and customer engagement. At the exhibition, it is common to see technical and sales personnel from Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery communicating with customers together.

“We use a project model of joint market development of sales and technology. The technical department has been involved in market development, worked to prepare the project, understood the needs of customers, listened to first-hand advice, and provided mixing solutions for its pain points and difficulties, so that we can offer the most satisfactory products based on the actual application needs of customers.” Mr. Pang said.

Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery’s internal mixer team communicates with customers at the exhibition site

Continuous investment and innovation have rendered the internal mixer increasingly mature in its technology and application. Since the development of China’s first tandem mixer in 2010, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery has developed a mixer control system and host structure analysis and optimization software with independent intellectual property rights, participated in the formulation of national standards for mixer products and safety, and filed 40-odd patents in the area of mixers alone. Now, the company has 191 valid patents, including 37 invention patents and 15 software copyrights. It has participated in drafting more than 30 national and industry-wide standards.

In terms of products, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery has expanded along the small and large-scale directions, developing small-scale GK90E/GE180T and GE135/GE260T tandem internal mixers, and large-scale GE420/GE800T and GE580/GE1000T ones, with wider application scenarios. Currently, YRPM has provided nearly 40 tandem mixers of various specifications and models for domestic and international customers.

Also, through the innovation of technical solutions, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery is expanding the application fields of tandem mixers from the tire industry to non-tire rubber products industry.

In 2016, a seal company under the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Ltd. (AVIC) planned to expand its rubber-mixing capacity. The Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery team innovatively proposed a one-step intelligent mixing technology solution. Based on Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery’s leading tandem-type internal mixer and mixing technology, this solution has disrupted the traditional mixing process model of original rubber products, completing master and final rubber mixing in one step and doubling the production capacity. With the control of intelligent management system, the quality of production is uniform and stable. Therefore, the quality of rubber products has been greatly improved.

At the application site of Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery’s tandem-type internal mixer

This innovative technical solution has been recognized by customers, highlighting significant advantages in production. Today, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery’s one-step intelligent rubber-mixing technology has been widely applied in such industries as wire and cable processing, rail transportation, seals, and hose and tape.

Seeking greater development by meeting needs

In the view of Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery’s tandem mixer team, technological innovation is not a simple R&D issue, but an act of technological change in line with the market, national policies, changes in the international environment, market development needs and other factors. From the perspective of the national eco-civilization construction policy, energy conservation and consumption reduction are rigid demands. In the supply-side structural reform, reducing costs while improving product quality is the pursuit of many rubber products enterprises seeking transformation and upgrading.

Faced with the pressure of development, we need to break through the traditional concept and conduct continuous research and improvement as well as technical reserves,  so as to maintain the advanced nature of products. While we offer customers with more value-added services, it is possible to survive and achieve greater development. The Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery team has made a well-defined plan for the future development of tandem-type internal mixers after continuous exploration and summary.

“In the future, our tandem-type mixers will be further developed towards serialization, continuity and intelligence. Of them, the large-scale tandem mixer is mainly used in tire factories and other large-scale rubber mixing industries, while the small-scale focuses on high-end products industry and other sectors with less demand for rubber materials, high performance requirements and continuous production. In addition, tandem-type continuous mixing lines are easier to automate and digitally control than traditional intermittent mixing equipment. Information collection is more diverse, which is more conducive to automation development and environmental protection. This is the direction we will continue to strengthen.” Mr. Pang said.

Currently, Yiyang Rubber & Plastics Machinery is cooperating with a large tire enterprise to further optimize and innovate the tandem mixer by collecting and analyzing the processing performance and data of rubber materials, while exploring a new business model to provide comprehensive services to customers and create more value for them.

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