The technology of plastic profile extrusion has undergone significant transformations since its inception, evolving from a rudimentary process to a highly sophisticated manufacturing method. Today’s advanced techniques provide unprecedented control over speed, temperature, and pressure, ensuring superior product quality and efficiency. This post will explore the journey of plastic profile extrusion, from its early beginnings to its modern-day complexities, illustrating how continual innovations have shaped an industry essential to countless applications.
The word extrude comes from the Latin words “ex” (out) and “trudere” (to thrust). It was first used in English in the 16th century to mean the act of thrusting out or expelling. At that time, of course, it didn’t refer to a manufacturing process.
The concept of forcing material through a die to produce a consistent cross-sectional profile, which is central to all extrusion processes, has been credited to Joseph Bramah (inventor of the hydraulic press), who made pipe by forcing soft metal through a die with a plunger in 1797. In 1810, an extrusion machine was patented for brick and tile making. The processes were built upon and improved by these early industries and others, such as the glass and food industries.
The first polymer extrusion is credited to Paul Troester and Ashley Gershoff in Hamburg, Germany, in 1935. However, Jeremiah Mahoney patented a device in 1904 for making ornamented plastic articles by extruding material through a die.
Whatever the beginnings, the process fundamentals haven’t changed much since its inception. However, there have been improvements in its efficiency and material handling capabilities.
Plastic Profile Extrusion Today
Plastic profile extrusion has seen significant advancements since those early methods were used. As materials and needs become more advanced, manufacturing processes advance as well. The heart of the extrusion process is the screw, which rotates and forces the material into the feed pipe. The screw directly impacts product quality, throughput, and efficiency. In addition to single-screw extruders, which were used by the first modern extruders, twin-screw and multi-screw extruders are now available. These offer faster extrusion speeds and larger output. However, the single screw extruder is still widely used because of advancements.
Improvements in screw design, heating and cooling systems, and control mechanisms have also been made to optimize the melting, mixing, and pumping of the plastic material. A single screw extruder may use a 3-zone screw, which has a different temperature at each zone to efficiently move the plastic through the barrel, or a barrier screw, which is used for materials that have a poor coefficient of friction and are difficult to process with a 3-zone screw.
The plastic profile extrusion industry has also seen advancements in extrusion processes, such as co-extrusion, dual durometer co-extrusion, tri-extrusion, and cross-head extrusion, which allows the production of complex and diverse products with different shapes, sizes, layers, and functionalities. For example, dual durometer allows materials of different hardness to be extruded into a single product.
Modern manufacturing processes include in-line operations to customize, decorate, or fabricate plastic products in different ways. As part of the extrusion process, parts can be punched, notched, embossed, wood-grained, sawed, printed, labeled, and have tape applied while the extrusion is still moving. Advantages of in-line operations include:
- Reducing the cost and time of production by eliminating the need for secondary operations or additional materials
- Improving the quality and appearance of the products by applying precise and consistent features or finishes
- Increasing the functionality and performance of the products by adding value-added components or properties
In addition to the process of extruding plastics, materials themselves have improved. Various additives, such as stabilizers, lubricants, fillers, colorants, and modifiers that can enhance the properties and performance of the plastic products can be used.
While plastic profile extrusion has come far since the early patents, as we move into Industry 4.0, we can expect to see the industry continue to evolve and grow with innovative technologies.
High-Quality Plastic Profile Extrusion
For more than 30 years, we have been providing high-quality extrusion products. Whether your product requires co-extrusion, dual durometer co-extrusion, tri-extrusion, cross-head extrusion, or tubing extrusion, we have the know-how and capabilities to deliver.
With in-house tooling capabilities, high-volume finishing, and assembly services, you don’t need to look anywhere else for your extrusion needs. Plus, our Juarez location also has an ISO-certified class 8 clean room so that we can work on your most sensitive projects. No matter how complex your product is, we are ready with our advanced machinery and capabilities.
Contact us to get started on your next project.