A Peek At How Plastic Products Are Created: The Extrusion Process

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The plastic extrusion process is not something to take for granted, as is usually the case in today's age. We have grown up living so comfortably that it is easy for us to forget that things have not always been that way. In the last few decades, our demand for plastic has increased at least tenfold, and what we knew in the 1920's could never suffice now in 2010! People have had to work tirelessly to figure out new ways for the plastic product manufacturing process to be cheaper, easier, and more productive. Thankfully, it has not been in vain; we would be nowhere as advanced as we are now without them. All of this is fact, and in my opinion simply not debatable, so why don't more people know about it? These are the things I've begun to ask myself since taking a deeper look into this incredible process.

Before trying to fill your brain with details on the subject, you should probably start with a better understanding on what exactly the subject is! Plastic extrusion is the process of taking thermosetting plastics and thermoplastics and converting them into a finished plastic product. This is done through melting, shaping, and molding the plastic material in order to fit a specific design. Then, the plastic is cut, cooled, packaged, and shipped all across the world!

In order to begin the process, plastic extrusion companies purchase mass quantities of raw plastic in the shape of small beads. These beads are referred to as resin in the industry, and are essential for the entirety of the process. Before placing the resin into the plastic extrusion machine, colorants are added in order to allow for even more plastic options. Sometimes, depending on the plastic product a company is setting out to make, UV ray protecting material will be mixed in with the resin, and then advertised as such on the final product.

Following the addition of these materials into the resin, it is lifted into a truck and fed into a barrel at the front of the machine. The plastic sifts through a hole in the barrel and is then twisted at an extreme rate by an industrial screw. This screw can be a variety of sizes, all of them gigantic in size; this is no phillips screw! The screw pushes the plastic material back through the extruder cavity.

Once reentering the extruder cavity, heaters are ignited that are set to gradually heat and melt the plastic to a certain optimal temperature. This temperature has to be very hot in order to melt the plastic accurately, and is usually around 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Depending on the size of the machine, there can be two and sometimes three heaters working together to heat the plastic material. This reduces the chance that overheating will be involved, potentially ruining the process if allowed to get too out of hand.

There are other things that have been added to the complexity of the plastic extrusion machine in order to keep it from getting overheated. If, for instance, the temperature exceeds the one that the machine was previously set to, the heaters are shut off and cooling fans turned on. Instead of reducing the heat so much that it ruins the product still, the plastic maintains the average heat by force and pressure. Talk about having all areas covered!

After the heating process, the now plastic molded parts move from the screw through a filtering contraption. This filtering contraption is composed of a number of layers of screening in order to remove any contaminants, or possibly harmful substances, from the plastic liquid. Once it passes through this, the plastic liquid falls through into a contraption called a die. The die shapes the plastic according to whatever design it has been programmed for, allowing for the final product, and the end of the machine's role in the process.

The final step, and arguably the most important one at that, is the the cooling process. This is where plastic manufacturing companies rely on trained specialists to pay careful attention to how the hot, now completely formed, plastic products are cooled. The most common way of cooling the plastic is by placing it into a sort of tub referred to as a sealed-water bath. Sometimes, when making plastic sheeting or other thin plastic materials, companies use cooling rolls instead.

 

The plastic extrusion process is has really come so far in the way of plastic molded parts, there's really no slowing it down! It's incredible the number of items that I've learned couldn't be possible without this incredible process. Plastic extrusion companies produce so many vital necessities!

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