MADISON – An idea hatched during an engineering class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison promises to reduce waste in a common industrial mixing process. Epoxy and hardener, which must be mixed just before application, are used in a broad range of industries, including construction, manufacturing – even dentistry.
These epoxies are blended in a “static mixing” nozzle – so named because it has no moving parts, says Eric Ronning, CEO of Re Mixers Inc., which was incorporated Dec. 27, 2016.
Upwards of 70 million static mixing nozzles are sold in the United States every year because epoxy quickly sets inside nozzles often and plugs them. The nozzle technology has changed little since the 1970s, Ronning says.
Ronning had his “eureka” moment while listening to Professor Tim Osswald discuss the shortcomings of static mixers in a class on plastics at UW-Madison.
As he pondered the problem of quickly and thoroughly mixing two fluids, he realized that the problem was more interesting than it sounds. “Mixing is such a fundamental, basic action, but what is the most efficient way to do it? With a static mixer, there are not many factors to play with, not many tricks to employ.”
Mixing, whether active or static, is something that 2-year-olds enjoy, Ronning says. “It’s a natural process. If you are standing in a river and gently release a handful of sand, you can expect all of the individual grains to be dispersed as they flow downstream. But aside from the water itself, there aren’t any moving components along the riverbed. That’s a good way to envision what happens inside a static mixing nozzle, where there also aren’t any moving components.”
Static mixing and epoxy adhesive are critical to strong, lightweight construction in laptops, cellphones, cars and bikes, Ronning says. “These products could not exist in their present form without static mixers and the adhesives they make possible.”