In-line implementation of an image-based particle size measurement tool to monitor hot-melt extruded pellets

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This work focuses on the implementation and application of an in-line particle measurement tool to monitor particle properties of hot-melt extruded pellets. A novel image analysis system (Eyecon) is used to analyze pellets with a size of approximately 1 mm. The method is based on photometric stereo imaging, which is achieved by three different-colored light sources arranged circularly around the lens. Several implementations, whereby the product stream was led through the optical sampling volume, have been tested. The advantages and disadvantages of each implementation are discussed and evaluated. The most suitable implementation was applied to an extrusion run with constant throughput and different cutting frequencies resulting in different pellet sizes. A particle size distribution comparison between the image analysis system and an off-line reference particle analysis (QICPIC) showed good agreement although only a small fraction of the particles were analyzed in-line. Additionally, some illustrative examples for process development are given. With this approach the capability of hot-die face pelletizing to manufacture nearly-spherical pellets with a narrow size distribution is proven.

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