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think-blue - optimal tools for biopolymers

Jürgen Spitzmüller’s goal is to create perfect profiles with perfect extrusion systems. The experienced entrepreneur has left his family business to set up the company “think-blue” aimed at commercialising innovations for extrusion systems.

Jürgen Spitzmüller's company "think-blue" develops extrusion tools for technical plastic profiles. The company also offers procedural consulting as well as the rheological optimisation of extrusion tools. Spitzmüller, a toolmaker and business economist by training, can look back on a long career in the extrusion of technical plastic profiles. He learned all about the production of technical plastic profiles in his family's business, which has now become his own business area. In 2006, Spitzmüller established "think-blue", initially focusing on company organisation and consulting, before refocusing on extrusion tools in 2009, thereby "closing his professional cycle."

Spitzmüller has manufactured a large number of extrusion tools, including tools for profiles that are only a few millimetres in size up to profiles more than 1,000 mm wide. All of these tools can be produced from virtually any type of polymer. The range of tools comprises co-extrusion tools as well as tools enabling the extrusion of two or several strings of material. The profiles are mainly used in highly specific technical applications as well as in building construction (windows, rain pipes, cable ducts).

High requirements on the materials

Extruder equipped with a fume hood © think-blue

Different types of plastics, including bioplastics, require the use of extrusion tools that are adapted to their specific flow properties (rheology). It all started with WPCs, wood plastic composites. "I have been following the WPC market for many years," said Spitzmüller who has since optimised and manufactured numerous extrusion tools for WPCs. In April 2010, Jürgen Spitzmüller joined forces with all-forming GmbH in a programme funded by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology and aimed at developing process technologies for technical biopolymer profiles. "I plan to produce a number of tools that will also enable the extrusion of biopolymers," said Spitzmüller who has already developed two lignin-based profile prototypes and is now focusing on the development of polylactide (PLA) profiles. "I have already identified some very interesting potentials. However, these materials are still in their infancy," said Spitzmüller referring to problems experienced with PLA, which is characterised by low dimensional stability when heated. Spitzmüller has high requirements on this material: "The properties of biopolymers must be similar to those of traditional plastics." In addition, he is hoping that his project will win over companies that use the profiles as well as profile manufacturers so that technical profiles that have been shown to be suitable for such purposes can be produced from biopolymers.

Optimised production processes

Jürgen Spitzmüller also offers rheological consulting related to technical profiles. “Dimensional tolerances are frequently built into the extruded parts, although they are not actually necessary and lead to high production costs,” said Spitzmüller expressing his belief that the production of technical profiles can be optimised further still.

He uses the Kaizen© (Japanese for “change for the better”) principle to improve the entire value creation process. A good company stands out for efficient production, excellent communication and the regulation of processes. think-blue optimises production processes to enable the efficient organisation of the work processes. Spitzmüller bases his activities on cybernetics, since communication and regulation are also possible in living systems. Spitzmüller sees a company as a holistic system, since every single change and the way it is organised affects the company as a whole. “I use the same knowledge to design my tools,” said Spitzmüller going on to add “production must be as safe as possible”. Citing a rain pipe profile manufacturer as an example, Jürgen Spitzmüller pointed out that he was able to reduce the number of extruders that the manufacturer had from 20 to six at the same time as increasing production by 20 percent. Spitzmüller’s mental agility plays a major role in these improvements. Using mental performance training techniques, Jürgen Spitzmüller has learned how to effectively increase the performance of his brain and he now offers the same training to companies.

Website address: https://www.biooekonomie-bw.de/en/articles/news/think-blue-optimal-tools-for-biopolymers