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HotSeat – Alessandro Ruotolo, Extrusion Test Manager at Bausano & Figli S.p.A

Bausano is a family company that has been designing and producing extrusion lines for plastics processing since the 1940s. A strong focus on R&D, innovation and technology has ensured Bausano’s success for over 70 years. Part of this R&D team is Alessandro Ruotolo, Extrusion Test Manager and R&D Engineer. Alessandro is next to face the HotSeat…

What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will Bausano respond?

As in all the rest of Europe and the world, there will be a strong and growing tendency in the coming years to use recycled material in industrial processing rather than virgin material. This entails an undeniable gain for companies both in environmental and economic terms (reduction in the cost of disposal of waste and the purchase of raw materials). In recent years, Bausano too, has had to learn to deal with this new trend. The challenge is great and not yet completely won.

A great effort is needed in terms of R&D to allow products based on recycled material to reach the same quality standards that are easily achievable with the processing of virgin materials. However, Bausano is on the right track towards achieving this goal: in the last 3 years, thanks also to important research work on both materials and extruder mechanics, we have considerably increased the sale of extrusion lines intended for the processing of recovery materials.

Regarding the medical sector, the European trend in recent years has been to replace phthalate-based plasticisers, potentially harmful to humans, with alternative plasticisers. In this case, Bausano has taken up the challenge already obtaining excellent results in terms of processing quality, using counter-rotating twin-screw extruders, of plasticised products based on, e.g. TOTM, in full agreement with the new regulations in force.

How has Bausano developed during your tenure?

Bausano has evolved by paying greater attention to the speed of assistance, even remotely, to the customer. In fact, a new Industry 4.0 service has been introduced, which allows remote control of the machine process parameters by the customer and by Bausano.

In Bausano, it is possible to receive real-time assistance thanks to the new Acty App, which allows you to request assistance remotely (very useful during the Covid emergency). In fact, several tests have been carried out online for the start-up of the lines sold.

Bausano has also dedicated time and resources to the technological innovation of its plants. There are several sensor studies on board the machine for monitoring parameters useful for process diagnostics.

We are also working on the development of more advanced calculation models for the optimisation of the geometry of the screws and the barrel to improve the quality of the production process. This development has led, for example, to the improvement of the position and type of degassing which can be customised according to the needs of the customer and the type of processing required.

In fact, we have created a laboratory pilot line with double-feed (forward position/back position) for configuration with double extrusion length 20D / 30D. A new tilting blade cutter has been introduced for cutting the granules more precisely thanks to the optimisation of the blade/granulator head coupling.

Another improvement has been made on the granule cooler, now wider for the optimisation of cooling through greater contact with the surface of the cooling conveyor. It is also possible to request an upgrade of motors for the standard configuration or induction heaters for energy saving.

What do you credit as the key to your success?

Commitment to study, perseverance, development of problem-solving skills as well as attention to detail are some of the factors that have allowed me to achieve my goals.

Additionally, I greatly believe in the analysis of results obtained, even the negative ones, to enable me to understand and avoid repeating past mistakes. To this, I would add a bit of imagination in the quest for innovative solutions, organisational skills and an ‘overall view’ in department management.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

It is a challenge that is continually renewed, namely: to be able to have my skills recognised and appreciated by colleagues/superiors/collaborators/customers, to create a relationship of mutual respect and trust that leads to consolidating teamwork and long-term customer loyalty.

What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an apprentice joining now?

Use the tools and know-how you have acquired in the course of your studies and work carried out in the past to better face the new job, but at the same time do not employ an over- theoretical approach. In most cases, the best way to tackle each project is with a healthy dose of pragmatism. Be methodical in your work. Cultivate interpersonal relationships with colleagues and clients. Collaborate with more experienced colleagues.

I would give the same advice to an apprentice starting out, plus I would advise them not to ‘avoid having their say’ for fear of making mistakes and to be resourceful, especially in their relationship with customers. In general, customers appreciate and repay commitment and readiness to assist. They do not give too much weight to some small technical or communicative error.

What hidden talents do you have?

I am able to keep calm and clear-headed, even under stress.

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