At Inline Plastics, Inc., we provide our customers with innovative custom plastic extrusion solutions. Equipped with over 75 years of collective experience in the creation and development of extrusion dies, our expert team has what it takes to come up with an appropriate solution for nearly any custom plastic extrusion need. We’ve put together the following guide to plastic extrusion to help readers understand the process, its potential applications, and its key benefits.
What Is Plastic Extrusion?
Plastic extrusion is a manufacturing process typically used for high-volume production applications. It involves heating and melting a polymer-based material enriched with various additives and forming the molten material into the desired shape by forcing it through a specialized die. The continuous extruded piece is cut to the proper length after it exits the die.
This manufacturing process is used to create parts and products for a wide variety of industries, including (but not limited to:
- Aquatics / Pool Supply
- Consumer Goods
- Electrical Applications
- Lawn & Garden
- Sporting Goods
The Plastic Extrusion Process
The plastic extrusion process can be broken down into three stages: mixing, melting and filtering, and shaping and cooling.
Stage 1: Mixing
The first stage of the plastic extrusion process involves mixing all of the raw ingredients to prepare them from the extrusion stage. First, raw plastic is fed into the extruder. Then, any additives (e.g., colorants) can be added to meet the material specs for the desired part or product.
Stage 2: Melting & Filtering
The second stage of the plastic extrusion process involves melting all of the ingredients together. The long, barrel-shaped extruder has strategically placed heating zones that gradually melt the polymer, which allows any additives to blend into it. A rotating screw generates additional heat through friction.
After the ingredients are melted and mixed, they exit through the end of the barrel and pass through a filter. At this point, the material is ready to proceed to the shaping stage.
Stage 3: Shaping & Cooling
The final stage of the plastic extrusion process involves shaping and cooling the component. The molten polymer mixture is forced through a specialized die that has an opening in the desired shape. Since the extrusion process is continuous, the extruded profile continues down the line. Formers help it keep its shape, while water baths help it cool and harden. At this point, the extruded piece can be sent for further processing as needed (e.g., cutting, straightening, finishing, etc.)
Advantages of Plastic Extrusion
Compared to other plastic manufacturing processes, plastic extrusion has a variety of advantages, such as:
- Lower cost. The process is more efficient and less expensive. It often utilizes thermoplastic compounds. These materials can be repeatedly heated, melted, and formed to create new parts and products from old ones, so they are not discarded after use, which reduces material and disposal costs. Additionally, the extrusion machines can operate continuously, which improves production capacity.
- Greater design flexibility. The process accommodates a wide range of components, from basic to highly complex. The main limiting factor is that the parts and products generally must have a consistent cross-section. Minor alterations to the process also enable manufacturers to use it with plastic sheets or for products with mixed plastic characteristics.
- Easier post-extrusion alterations. The plastics used in extrusion operations remain hot even after they’ve been removed from the extruder. This quality makes extruded components highly amenable to post-extrusion manipulations and alternations, so manufacturers can easily change the shape of the component if needed.
Plastic Extrusion Services from Inline Plastics
Plastic extrusion is a solid manufacturing method for many production projects. However, it is important to partner with the right plastic extrusion provider to ensure you receive the best possible components.
At Inline Plastics, we are an industry-leading supplier of custom profile extrusions for customers across a wide range of industries. In addition to our custom extrusion capabilities, we also maintain an extensive selection of inline secondary services to ensure customers receive parts and products that are fully ready for use out of the box. To learn more about our plastic profile extrusion capabilities, check out our plastic extrusion services page or contact us today. To discuss your project with one of our team members, request a quote.