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J. Coat. Technol. Res.

DOI 10.1007/s11998-013-9506-2

Analytical prediction of roll coating with counter-rotating

deformable rolls
Bettina Willinger, Antonio Delgado

 American Coatings Association & Oil and Colour Chemists Association 2013

Abstract Roll coating is a common technique for Introduction

applying thin coating films on continuous substrates,
e.g., papers and foils. Key advantages are the compar- Roll coating is a common technique for continuous
atively simple technology and the possibility of coating coating of all kinds of papers and foils. In contrast to
thin films using highly viscous fluids. Since roll coating premetered coating techniques, like slot or curtain
is a self-metered process, the prediction of film coating, where a dosimetric pump predefines the
thicknesses is of fundamental interest for industrial application weight, in roll coating processes, various
process control. In the present work, a new analytical parameters influence the final strength of the coating.
approach for the prediction of the film thickness in roll Hence, the process is also called self-metered. The final
coating with deformable rolls and negative gaps is coating thickness is of primary interest in many coating
developed. This method is based on the fluid dynamic applications, since it defines essential properties of the
theory of lubrication approximation. The film thickness product, for example, peel adhesion. As a result, a
is calculated depending on the geometry of the rolls great deal of effort has been made to describe the roll
(including the elasticity of the rubber), the fluid coating process and its influence parameters.
properties of the applied film and the roll velocities. At first, the flow between two counter-rotating rigid
This is gained by using boundary conditions for cylinders was analyzed analytically and numerically.
pressure andin contrast to former literaturefor The work of Greener and Middleman1 provides a good
force. The quality of the predicted results is validated overview of former literature and they validated their
with experimental data from literature. The compari- calculations experimentally based on the lubrication
son shows good agreement and thus the derived theory. Depending on the applied boundary condi-
analytical model offers new possibilities for predicting tions, Savage2 used two different models also based on
film thickness and understanding of the associated lubrication approximation, namely separation model
influence parameters. and Reynolds model, for describing the flow. While
several authors concentrated on rolls rotating with
Keywords Roll coating, Deformable roll, Negative equal speed, Benkreira et al.3,4 investigated in several
gap, Analytical prediction works roll pairs with unequal speeds, as well as for
Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids, and gave a film
splitting model. More recently, mostly numerical cal-
culations solving the complete NavierStokes equa-
tions have been performed and improved, especially
for the description of the involved free surfaces.5
This paper was presented at the 16th International Science and Furthermore, complex rheological behavior was in-
Technology Symposium, September 912, 2012, in Atlanta, GA cluded in the investigations.6
(USA). Following the demand for lower application weights,
roll coaters with deformable rolls are widespread.
B. Willinger (&), A. Delgado Different than roll coating using two rigid steel rolls, in
Institute of Fluid Mechanics, Friedrich Alexander deformable roll coating a pair consisting of a steel roll
University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Cauerstr. 4,
91058 Erlangen, Germany
and a roll with a rigid core and a wrapped deformable
e-mail: layer is utilized. Generally, the use of deformable rolls
J. Coat. Technol. Res.

stabilizes the coating process and delays the onset of volume flow rate through a negative gap of a forward
ribbing instability.7,8 roll coater with deformable rolls exists to date. So, the
Coyle9 was among the first researchers to give present work aims at predicting the application weight
theoretical model for forward roll coating with deform- by analytical methods based on lubrication theory and
able rolls. He investigated a 1D elastohydrodynamic using a Hookean model for the solid. The results
model for positive gaps, i.e., no contact or intersection should contribute to the understanding of the funda-
of rolls, and negative gaps, i.e., only deformation of a mental influence factors for deformable roll coating.
rubber-like layer of the roll prevents it from intersect-
ing. For modeling the elastic behavior, the validity of
Hookes law for the solid and infinitesimal strains was Governing equations and calculation model
assumed. The resulting nonlinear ordinary differential
equation was solved by numerical methods and so, Basic equations
among others, pressure distribution and gap passing
flow rate could be predicted. Based on Coyles calcu- The aspired analytical solution for forward roll coating
lations, Carvalho and Scriven extended the analysis with deformable rolls and for negative gaps is based on
with a 1D neo-Hookean model and a 2D Hookean the well known and frequently used lubrication approx-
plain-strain model for the solid body. The fluid flow imation. Lubrication approximation is a simplification of
was in both cases modeled similar to Coyle with the NavierStokes equation for thin laminar films where
lubrication approximation. The work showed a inertia is assumed to be comparably negligible and
remarkable difference between 1D and 2D models results in a quasi 1D approach.21 Several authors used it
while the latter seemed to be more accurate to the for analytical solutions for rigid roll coating, as well as for
authors. They also stated that their theories are not numerically solved solutions for deformable roll coat-
able to calculate the coating weight on each roll as the ing.1,2,9,10 Integration of the lubrication approximation
theory does not cover film splitting.10 leads to the velocity profile in main flow direction x. It
Later, the same authors compared a spring and depends on the viscosity g of the Newtonian fluid, and
plain-strain model using the 2D NavierStokes equa- the pressure gradient p. The two apparently unknown
tions for both. The obtained results are mostly similar. integration constants C1 and C2 can be determined using
Major differences appeared only for the velocity boundary conditions for the velocities of the rolls.
distribution along the deformable roll.11 Further mod- The description of the behavior of rubber covered
ifications of the calculation procedure involve the pressure rolls is based on the contact theory of Hertz.22
consideration of viscoelastic behavior of the material.12 Parish23 presented in his research work a resulting
Unlike Carvalho and Scriven, Gostling et al. 13 used equation (1) for the nip width, i.e., length between the
a finite-strip model for the solid coupled with lubrica- beginning and the end of the deformed region, 2h0
tion theory to especially treat the case of incompress- between one hard and one elastic roller depending on
ible compliant layers. A comparison with experimental the applied load per unit length of the rollers W, the
results of Cohu and Magnin14 for the resulting film Poisson ratio m, the Youngs modulus of the elastic
thickness shows a difference of a factor of two, but it roller E, and the roll diameters D1 and D2.
was assumed that viscoelastic effects of the deformable
cover might have caused the difference.12 2WD1 D2 1  m2
Recently, the effect of fluid absorption during h0 : 1
pED1 D2
forward roll coating process with deformable rolls has
been studied.15
Since many of the fluids being coated show non- His calculations use plane strain theory24 and are based
Newtonian flow behavior, efforts are made to describe on the work of Thomas and Hoersch25 for homogenous
the performance of these fluids also in the case of rollers and on the calculations of Hannah26 for thin
deformable roll coating. For the description of the elastic covers. For thin rubber covers an additional
rheological behavior different models are used. Research parameter, the cover thickness b, has to be considered
work considering power-law fluids,16 Carreau and Car- in equation (1). The resulting nip width 2h is then
reauGillespie fluids,17 or fluids with elastic behavior smaller than 2h0.27
described with a Boger18 approach has been performed. For the analytical solution in the following sections
The fluid rheology also influences the occurrence of flow the use of equation (1) corrected with Hannahs theory
instabilities like ribbing.19 Today, available high speed for incompressible layers seems to be suitable as Parish23
video systems also allow a level of knowledge concerning showed within his experiments the validity of her theory
misting in deformable roll coating.20 for ratios of 2h/b approximately smaller than 3/2.
The understanding of the self-metered roll coating
and its influence factors is high and, based on analysis
of the experimental and numerical data, various Set-up of the calculation model
correlations for the influence factors of application
weight exist.911,14 Nevertheless, according to the The treated set-up for the calculation is shown in
authors, no analytical description for the resulting Fig. 1. The roll pair consists of a rigid roll with radius
J. Coat. Technol. Res.

layer Fluid

Fig. 1: Scheme of deformable roll coating with negative y h min

gap x

R1 and a deformable roll with radius R2. For the feed Fig. 2: Model of deformable roll coating used for the
system a flooded inlet with constant filling level and prediction of the volume flow rate by analytical methods
including the negative gap region with an assumed
constant ambient pressure p0 at the top of the feed
constant height hmin
pool is assumed.
The figure shows the case of a negative gap, which is
analyzed in the following sections. The case of negative
gap is given when the intersection of rolls is only Calculation procedure and result
avoided by deformation of the rubber-like material of
the deformable roll and is in contrast to deformable Starting with the lubrication approximation the two
roll coating with positive gaps, where a small initial gap integration constants are fixed setting the velocity of
is increased by deformation of the cover. The geomet- the lower roll at y = 0, to u1, and the velocity of the
rical setup is transferred into a model, which simplifies upper roll at y = h, to u2 (see also Table 1). Integrating
the geometry and hence enables the analytical predic- the velocity profile results in the volume flow per unit
tion. For the model the rollroll geometry is trans- width Q (equation (4)).
ferred in a plateroll model with equivalent radius R
following literature.2,9 The corresponding radius can be 1 @p   u 2  u1
calculated following equation (2). Q h xy  y2 y u1 dy: 4
2g @x h x
1 1 1 1
: 2
R 2 R1 R2 Depending on the region, h(x) has been substituted by
hmin in the negative gap region or with equation (2)
Also based on literature2,9 the curvature h of the roll elsewhere. As the resulting equations still contain the a
with equivalent radius is assumed to be describable as priori unknown hmin as well as the unknown pressure
the quadratic function (3). gradient further boundary conditions are necessary.
The following steps have to be performed.
h x hmin : 3 (i) Equation (4) for the volume flow is valid for all
2R three different calculation regions. The results for
inflow and outflow regions only slightly differ if
Within the equation hmin is the minimal gap distance the function h(x) is substituted due to the applied
between the roll surfaces while fluid flows through the overall coordinate system, which has its origin at
gap and therefore is a priori unknown. the plate at the beginning of negative gap region
For predicting the system by analytical methods, in (see also Fig. 2). However, in both cases, the
contrast to the existing literature, a further assumption quadratic function (3) adjusted to the overall
is necessary. coordinate system is used. For the negative gap
Hence the calculation area is split into three parts: region function h(x) is assumed as a constant. The
the inflow region, the negative gap region, and the equation (4) can be solved in a general way for the
outflow region, as illustrated in Fig. 2. While in inflow still unknown pressure gradient p/x using h(x)
and outflow region, the curvature of the roll is expected (see equation (5)).
to be undeformed; in the negative gap region a
deformation resulting in the constant height hmin is @p dp 2Q  u1 u2 hx
assumed. This assumption was based on the numerical 6g : 5
@x dx hx3
results of Gostling et al.13 and enables the prediction
by analytical methods. But as other anterior models8
show different behavior, the results of the analytical (ii) As the further known boundary conditions are
model have to be carefully validated. pressure ones, the indefinite integral of equation (5)
J. Coat. Technol. Res.

Table 1: Overview about used boundary conditions deformed region, which is given as the operation
during calculation procedure parameter or can be calculated (see Basic equations
section) and the radius R. The still unknown
Velocity profile Pressure profile Volume flow dimensionless minimal gap distance hmin can finally
be determined by integrating the pressure profile along
u(y = 0) = u1 p(x = R) = p0 p(x = xs) = pCa
the negative gap region. The resulting implicit form of
u(y = h(x)) = u2
the conditional equation for hmin , which is the ratio of
hmin to the radius R, is given in equation (7).
is calculated to get the pressure distribution. In p
this step three different equations are obtained,  q p   3 2pL2
due to different functions h(x) in the three hmin 
16L hmin  3 2phmin : 7
calculation areas. While for inflow and outflow
region the results only slightly differ, in the Within the equation, the variable W* is the dimen-
negative gap region the result is comparably sionless load, which is either directly measurable or
simple as the height does not vary with x. can be calculated with a given footprint following
(iii) At first the occurring integration constant in the equation (1).
inflow region is determined (see also Table 1). It
is assumed that the pressure far upstream is
equal to ambient pressure. In the presented case
the relative pressure at x = R is set to 0. This is Results and discussion
a valid assumption for a gap feed system, as
shown in Fig. 1, and is used for different feed Validation for thick rubber covers
situations in references (1), (2), (9), and (28).
(iv) Based on the obtained pressure distribution in The validity of the derived analytical relation for the
the inflow region, the integration constant in the volume flow rate of a deformable roll coater with
pressure distribution equation of the negative negative gaps was proven using experimental data of
gap region can be obtained as at the boundary of Cohu and Magnin.14 They distinguished their results in
both the pressure should be equal. With the same data for thick and thin rubber covers. For the thick
procedure also the pressure distribution in the cover with a thickness b = 25 mm the half contact
outflow region can be calculated. length h0, calculated using deflection measurements
lies between 27.7 and 5 mm.14 Following Hooke,32
Since two unknowns, the volume flow per unit width Cohu and Magnin14 expected the rubber cover to have
Q and the resulting gap height in negative gap region a little influence. This agrees also with the classification
hmin, are present in the pressure distribution, further of Carvalho,12 who specified a value of 0.1 for the ratio
boundary conditions are necessary to predict the of cover thickness and radius as border for negligible
volume flow. The often-used condition1,2,28 of Capil- influence. So for the conducted validation in the case of
lary pressure at the film splitting point is suitable to thick rubber covers, it is assumed, that the resulting
present one of the missing boundary conditions. As the length of contact 2h equals approximately the calcu-
exact prediction of film-splitting location is still under lated width 2h0 (see equation (1)).
investigation,29,30 it is assumed that the outflow region Following the data of Cohu and Magnin, for the
is negligibly small, i.e., the x-coordinate of the splitting elastic modulus and the roll radius values of 2.2 MPa
point xs is near by the end of the deformed region, and 118 mm are assumed. All experiments were
following Ascanio and Ruiz.31 performed with equal roll speed and so symmetrical
The volume flow can be obtained through equalizing film splitting between pick-up and applicator roll is
the pressure distribution at the rim of the deformed assumed. As the derived analytical equations (6) and
region with the capillary pressure. Rearranging the (7) do not include any film splitting behavior, in the
equation and introducing dimensionless footprint L present case, the resulting volume flow (see equation
and minimal height hmin the volume flow per unit width (5)) is hence halved. The validation in the case of thick
can be calculated. rubber covers is performed for parameter setups with
Equation (6) shows the result for the dimensionless different roll velocities, namely 0.17 and 0.77 m/s and
volume flow Q+, which is scaled with the flow rate of different Newtonian viscosities, 0.15 and 0.36 Pa s.
pure shear flow, with the assumption of negligible Figure 3 shows the resulting film thickness of the
surface tension, i.e., pCa 0. applicator roll depending on different loads W for
p p the experimental data of Cohu and Magnin and the
8L hmin  2 2phmin  corresponding prediction by the derived analytical
Q p p hmin : 6
16L hmin  3 2phmin equations (6) and (7) using the correlation (1) for
length of contact and the appearing inaccuracies as
The dimensionless footprint L within the equation is shaded areas. The film thickness e on the applicator
the ratio of the length 2h0, respectively, 2h of the roll is calculated following equation (8).
J. Coat. Technol. Res.

5101 evaluation, especially regarding small film thicknesses,

Film thickness e (m) experimental data with lower inaccuracies in operation
parameter would be necessary.
Nevertheless, overlooking the inaccuracy in opera-
101 tion parameter the prediction of experimental data was
possible within about 10% for thick films and small
applied loads (approx. 6 MPa). The measured and
predicted values only differ within 5%. An explanation
is that higher loads lead to higher deflection and higher
footprint length as expressed also in equation (1). But
100 with higher values for the contact length h0, the ratio of
2103 104 2.1104 contact length to cover thickness increases and the
Load (N/m) validity of the assumption of negligible influence of the
steel core hence decreases.
Fig. 3: Validation of calculated results (
roll velocity Furthermore, the influence of surface tension and
u = 0.17 m/s, u = 0.77 m/s, shaded areas: occurring hence a capillary pressure different than zero has been
inaccuracies) with experimental data of Cohu and Magnin14 investigated. Even for the limiting case of high capil-
(m u = 0.17 m/s, u = 0. 77 m/s) for deformable roll coating
lary pressure (pCa = 105 Pa), the difference of the
with thick rubber covers
calculated result is less than 0.1 lm for the case of
higher roll velocity and even less than 0.01 lm for the
second case. In both cases the calculated film thickness
slightly increases. These results agree with the ones
e Q R: 8 obtained, e.g., by Coyle et al.28 Similar to the results in
the present work, they obtained a nearly constant
In both considered cases a good agreement of the volume flow rate for a large range modified Capillary
prediction by analytical method and the experimental numbers. The tendency, that with increasing capillary
data of Cohu and Magnin within an accuracy of about pressure, respectively, increasing surface tension and
10% is achieved. While for the lower roll velocity of decreasing modified capillary number the volume flow
0.17 m/s and the lower viscosity of 0.15 Pa s the slightly increases is in both works the same.
prediction lies slightly under the measured values; for
the higher velocity and viscosity (0.77 m/s and 0.36 Pa s)
the data are overestimated. In the latter case the Validation for thin rubber covers
inaccuracy for small loads even is below 5%. Direct
specifications about the average formation or the Cohu and Magnin14 also performed experiments with a
standard deviation of the experimental results are not thin rubber cover of b = 12 mm, where the cover
given. thickness should be considered as a relevant parame-
However, Cohu and Magnin14 prescribed them- ter. While the used roll diameter stayed constant, the
selves a particular uncertainty to their operation elastic modulus E of the thin cover had a value of
parameters. They listed inaccuracies of 10% for the approximately 1.1 MPa.
elastic modulus and the fluid viscosity, 5% for the The experimental results for the film thickness on
applied load, and 3% for the roll speed. Including the applicator roll for a Newtonian fluid with a
these inaccuracies using error propagation, the analyt- viscosity of 0.4 Pa s are plotted in Fig. 4 depending
ical results are no longer a single value but can only be on various loads. The likewise plotted graphs for the
presented as a result range (see Fig. 3). The calculated analytical prediction give a good approximation of
results now have inaccuracies due to the uncertainty of results.
operation parameters between 17.5% and 18.5% As in the case of thin rubber covers the influence of
depending on the applied load for the data with higher the layer character of the deformable layer is not
velocity and viscosity and even higher values around negligible; therefore, it is not sufficient to use only
45% for the data with lower values. equation (1) to describe the deformation. Hence the
Following the graphical presentation, the experi- work of Hannah26 is considered within the prediction
mental values lie in the parameter range calculated by for thin rubber covers as also mentioned before. As her
analytical methods and hence can be predicted quite formulations, which demonstrate that the apparent
well. Especially for higher film thicknesses, the deformation length is smaller than the one calculated
obtained results are more than satisfactory. For lower with equation (1), are based on numerical solution
speed and viscosity, the obtained film thicknesses are methods, for the derived calculations linear approxi-
quite small and the inaccuracy of the operation mations are used. The three different predictions
parameters give a quite large range of values as results shown in Fig. 4 differ in the used assumptions but all
for the analytical prediction. So the validation of the assume incompressible material behavior. The two
performance quality of the analytical prediction is graphs with best agreement use the value tables given
nearly impossible with this data. For an even better in reference (26) for the correction of equation (2) and
J. Coat. Technol. Res.

20 2.5101

Film thickness e (m)

Film thickness e (m)



5 1.5103 1.0104 2.0104

1.5103 1.0104 2.0104 Load (N/m)
Load (N/m)
Fig. 5: Experimental data for thin rubber covers of Cohu
Fig. 4: Validation for thin rubber covers: dependency of and Magnin14 (j) and corresponding analytical prediction
film thickness e of load for experimental data14 (j) and including inaccuracy of operation parameter ( )
corresponding analytical calculation with different assump-
tions (dd plain strain, plain stressfixed inner maximum 10% when thick cover equations are used
boundary, plain stressslip at inner boundary) instead. This is no contradiction to the boundary value
of 0.1 from Carvalho12 as it is an approximated value.
are based on generalized plane stress theory with
either fixed inner boundary or slip at inner boundary.
In contrast to this, the third graph is based on a value
table of Parish,23 who modified Hannahs equations for Conclusion
plane strain theory. In all cases the inaccuracy is a
maximum of 18%. Based on lubrication theory and Hertz contact
Following the analysis for thick rubber cover, also mechanic transferred to rolls with deformable cover
for thin rubber covers an exact prediction like indi- by Hannah and Parish, a prediction method for the
cated in Fig. 5 is not possible due to inaccuracy of volume flow rate through the gap has been conducted
operation parameters. Instead, a result range can be for deformable roll coating with negative gaps and
given like that shown in Fig. 5 for the results with plane incompressible layers. Main issues were the geometri-
stress with fixed inner boundary theory. cal model set-up and linked to this, the use of a force
The value range of calculated results for the film boundary condition in the negative gap regime. In
thickness e on the applicator roll is again based on contrast to existing literature, which all use numerical
error propagation. The mean value shown in Fig. 4 gets solution methods for their investigations, the con-
an uncertainty due to inaccuracy in experimental ducted equations (7) and (8) can be solved by analyt-
operation parameters between 22.5% and 32% ical methods. The accomplished validation with
depending on the load. Especially again for high loads experimental data published by Cohu and Magnin
and low resulting film thicknesses the inaccuracy of the show very satisfactory results. Overlooking the inac-
operation parameters used in the experiments of Cohu curacies in operation parameters and the not given
and Magnin prevent an even more accurate prediction errors for the measurement results, the experimental
by analytical methods. data for the film thickness can be predicted predom-
Since the surface tension of the fluids used by Cohu inantly within 10%.
and Magnin was not given in their work, the influence Furthermore, the calculations show that the volume
of capillary pressure was investigated. As with thick flow rate is only very slightly dependent upon capillary
rubber covers, the influence of capillary pressure on pressure, respectively, the surface tension and the film
the resulting film thickness is low and the deviations splitting location. These results agree well with the
are clearly below 0.1 lm. ones of Coyle et al.28
Due to the definition of the thin cover model, for The obtained analytical method offers new possibil-
increasing rubber cover thickness the nip width ities, especially for the analysis of the main influencing
h approximates the theoretical value h0 for thick rubber factors of deformable roll coating with negative gaps
covers. Nevertheless, a general border value of negligi- and for the prediction of film thicknesses in industrial
ble influence of cover thickness based on the analytical applications.
calculations is hardly declarable. The reason for this is
the fact that the computable critical value depends
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