Plastic Extrusion For Dummies: A Step By Step Process

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I was at a point in my life where I wanted to see what it was like to do something I'd never done before. I wanted to see how things so simple that I see in everyday use were made, and who it was that made them! We buy our products from name brand stores, but do we ever stop to ask ourselves how the product itself came to be? Nobody really stops to think of what goes into making something as simple as a roll of tape. When I started asking these questions, I was introduced to plastic extrusion. The name itself was fun to say, and I went to a couple of companies to do some hands-on research on the subject. To my surprise, I learned way more than I thought I would, and I was actually catching on really fast!

The plastic extrusion process is aided primarily with the help of a machine. This machine can most obviously be referred to as a plastic extruder. This machine's primary use is to heat, purify, and shape a material called thermoplastic into the company's final product. It's important that the thermoplastic come in the consistency of what looks like small, round beads (commonly referred to in the industry as "resin").

After obtaining the resin, the next order of business is to fill up the part of the machine called the barrel. Often, this is done with a hopper. You've probably seen a hopper before and you just didn't know that's what it was called. It's a sort of truck that can slowly tilt upwards, allowing an effective feeding of the plastic resin into the barrel. Before placing the resin in the hopper, a specialist will usually add different colors in order to make the final plastic products more desirable.

If the previous step was successfully completed, then the thermoplastic resin will run into something referred to as a "feedthroat." The feedthroat is usually found at the bottom rear of the barrel. The thermoplastic resin then runs into an incredibly huge industrial-sized screw. This screw is on average, pushing the resin at 120 rpm back into the barrel. At this point, the barrel begins to slowly heat itself to a degree that the specialist has already input.

Your typical industrial plastic extruder will come complete with cooling fans. The cooling fans aid in keeping the temperature below the degree that the specialists input at the start of the process. Also, the industrial screw is quite a complex piece of machinery. There are five possible zones in the screw, but since the jargon isn't international, you will sometimes a couple of different names for them.

Once the plastic resin is melted completely into a liquid, the next step is to drain it of imperfections and contaminants. The way this is done is the molten thermoplastic travels down the screw and through a series of screens to be filtered. These screens are secured in place by a piece of machinery with the title of a "breaker plate." All a breaker plate really looks like is a thick, much bigger hockey puck that had holes drilled into it!

The next step, and arguably the most important, is what follows the filtering process. Once it is filtered and the molten thermoplastic is free to flow through the large holes in the breaker plate, it enters the die. The die is so important due to the fact that it sets the profile for the plastic product that the plastic company wants to make. It's a really great device, and incredibly interesting to see in action!

At this point in the plastic extrusion procedure, a specialist must watch to make sure the molten thermoplastic flow is steady. Even the littlest bit of unsteadiness can accidentally cause flaws in the plastic! If these stresses are too visible, they may completely ruin a particular piece of plastic. No company wants a waste, so making sure to pay attention to this is vital.

 

Finally, we move on from the machine to the cooling process. This is where specialists from the plastic companies really come in handy. Plastic Products can be really difficult to cool down, as plastic is an excellent thermal insulator. Plastic extrusion is quite an interesting process, it's amazing how many things can come from it!

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