Plastic Extrusion How Extrusion Works

Taken from Geist Plastics, archived page

Plastic products take many different forms – known as plastic profiles to us – but they all start as raw material called resin. In plastic extrusion, resin beads are melted down, filtered for uniform consistency, pushed through a die cut for the final product shape, and then cooled. It’s a complicated process that takes many forms, but here’s a quick breakdown of how it works

1. Raw plastic is fed into a hopper – along with any colorants or additives – that feeds down into the extruder.

2. The beads flow from the hopper down through the feed throat, which dispenses them onto a large spinning screw operating within a horizontal barrel.

3. The beads pass through the barrel on the screw while being heated to the melting temperature specific to that type of plastic. By the time it reaches the end of the screw, the plastic is thoroughly mixed and has a consistency like thick bubble gum.

4. At the end of the screw, the extruded plastic flows across a screen and a breaker plate, which serve two functions. The screen removes any contaminants or inconsistencies in the plastic, and the breaker plate changes the motion of the plastic from rotational to longitudinal. It’s now ready for the die.

5. The die for an individual plastic profile is more than just a hollowed-out shape of the final product. It’s designed so that the plastic flows smoothly and evenly from the cylindrical profile of the extruder into the final profile shape. Consistency in this flow is critical to achieving an end product with integrity.

Plastic extrusion is used to produce a huge range of products on the market today, from building materials to consumer products to industrial parts. Pipes, tubing, window frames, electrical covers, fence, edging, and weather stripping are just a few of the common items made by plastic extrusion, along with thousands of custom profiles.

Plastics Extrusion Process Choices

Naturally, with so many possible resultant products, the process of plastic extrusion begins with choices. Before getting started, it’s important to know which extrusion process will be needed to create the product profile. There are a number of variations on that process that are used to create plastic products. We’ve already described Profile extrusion, which is what we do here at Geist Plastics. Learn more about Geist Plastics capabilities by clicking here.  The other main types  of plastic extrusion are listed below

  • Blown film extrusion is used to create thin plastic film like that in most plastic shopping bags. The die used is an upright cylinder from which the molten plastic is pulled upward at varying distance and speed – these factors determine the thickness of the film. Compressed air is moved up the center of the film to create a bubble, from which thin sheets can be cut, spooled, or sealed into shape. 
  • Sheet/film extrusion uses a number of cooling rolls in succession to create even, flat profiles of plastic. This process is often used for profiles that will receive an additive layer or to create sheets that will undergo thermoforming to become yet another new shape. 
  • Co-extrusion is the simultaneous extrusion of multiple plastic profiles that then pass through the same die to become a more complex product. This process can be used to create layers or products with an outer coating of a different plastic makeup.  

Choosing Plastic Types

Perhaps nothing, though, is as important as choosing the right plastic material for each individual profile. Dozens of materials can be extruded, each chosen for a unique set of properties. Polyethylenes, PVCs, polypropylenes, and styrenes vary greatly in molding and cooling temperature, strength, integrity, ability to withstand chemicals or weather, production cost, and more.

For example, PVC products and polystyrene products are often chosen for their low cost and high dimensional stability, but don’t have the temperature resistance or strength for other applications. Polypropylene sheet products have great chemical and moisture resistance. These are just a few of the available types of plastic for the plastic extrusion process – if your product has unique material requirements, there’s a plastic profile for you.

For further information on choosing the right material for your extruded plastic product, take a look at this chart by the International Association of Plastics Distribution which lists many of the most common plastics and their advantages and disadvantages.

Taken from Geist Plastics, archived page

I thought Plastic was a Cheap Material?

We do hear this question regularly. And, maybe, in years gone by Plastic was that Cheap material.

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, plastics were very inexpensive, and were very limited in types and availability. Generally, the materials that we available were the ‘cheapest’ plastics that are still available today.

What cause this to change?

Plastics are primarily produced from Oil and Oil by products. As oil pricing has skyrocketed from the 50’s, so did the low end plastic material pricing.

In addition, a new generation of Performance Plastics have been developed. These high tech, mechanical and engineering grades of plastic materials were developed. These plastics replace metals and other substrates in manufacturing. They out live, out perform most materials at a fraction of the cost of the material it replaces. Many of the these high performance materials have improved physical properties, like: significantly lighter, have excellent wear properties, are self lubricating, and can withstand chemicals and UV.

But, all materials are not designed to the same standard. This is true with plastics as well. Choosing the wrong plastic for a project can be a costly mistake. All engineering perimeters should be considered: strength, impact, sunlight, water absorption, electrical resistance, temperature range, etc. We’ve all witnessed the ‘cheap’ plastic kids toy that lasts but a couple of days, the clip or cover in your car breaks off, the inexpensive outdoor furniture and so on. These are examples of under designed or of choosing a material for its resin cost, not its physical properties.

What Should You Do?

The answer is really quite easy….Ask.

Talk to one of our experienced ‘Plasticologists’ and tell them your requirements. You’re input, and a little time to answer some questions could save you enormous time and expense in your finished parts. All plastics are not created equal, and neither are all plastic suppliers. Give us a try, and take the guess-work out of choosing the right material for your job.

Is Plexiglass The Same As Lexan®?

This is question that we hear fairly often. The easy answer is No!

Both of these items/resins are the trade names for two different products.

Plexiglass or Plexiglas®

The Plexiglas® trade name (notice only one ‘s’ at the end) was the first trade name for Acrylic Sheet. Invented by Rohm & Haas in the 1930’s and is the Acrylic Sheet by Arkema Grouporiginal manufacturer of PolyMethylMethAcrylate or PMMA. The trade name is now owned by the Arkema Group.  And, yes, they still produce a wide range of Acrylic Sheet. Acrylic is an extremely clear and rigid plastic used in hundreds of applications, from Aircraft Canopies to Window Replacement. It is much more impact resistant than standard window glass.Uses of Acrylic are vast and far reaching, from drinking glasses and clear bath towel rods to huge clear tanks for whales. The material can be formed into parts or three dimensional shapes (like the 76 station sign in the shape of a ball), it can be bent to small card holders on your restaurant table to the face of your 60″ LCD TV.  Acrylic is used in thousands of projects, it can be glued, polished and sanded; and can be fabricated into almost any shape or size.


As for Lexan®, this is a Polycarbonate Sheet and was originally invented in the 1950’s. General Electric was one of the key innovators (along with Bayer Chemical) and trade name holder for years, and sold it GE, General Electric Lexan - Sabicrecently to Sabic ( Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation). Lexan® and Makrolon® Polycarbonate have a unique range of physical properties which include: transparency, extreme toughness and elevated temperature property retention.  Polycarbonate applications are widespread and include automotive, media, glazing, lighting and electronic equipment along with a myriad of consumer applications. Polycarbonate is used in bullet resistant glazing in banks and armored cars. The excellent impact resistant properties make it an obvious choice for protective glazing, and is used as lens in most ‘safety glasses’. Chances are excellent that you own several items made of polycarbonate.

American Made Plastics are proud to provide quality Acrylic and Polycarbonate sheet from our massive inventory. We provide material from several domestic manufactures of Acrylic, and choose to supply the domestic Polycarbonate material from Covestro (formerly Bayer) and produced by Sheffield Plastics in Sheffield, Massachusetts rather than the Saudi made SABIC material.

Plexiglas® and Lexan® are very common trade names for very common materials.

What is Oilon PV80

What is Oilon PV80

We have recently received a question from a client on an old product called Oilon PV80. This was one of the first attempts to make a plastic ‘slicker’, and they achieved this by adding an oil agent to Acetal resin. It failed miserably due to the oil agent not blending well with the Acetal base resin. The product had vastly uneven oil content throughout the extrusion.

Don’t let this failure sway you away from Acetal products, as they are excellent machining and wear resistant materials, Acetal just doesn’t take well to the blending with oil. The Dupont Delrin Acetal resin does blend well with Teflon, and that is the very popular Delrin AF product line, which is a Teflon Filled Dupont Delrin resin. The Delrin AF comes in 2 main versions, one is a Teflon Fiber Filled Delrin resin, and the other is a Teflon Powder Filled Delrin resin.

Since the original attempts with Oilon PV80 our factories have figured it out, and they now use Nylon as a base. The Oil Filled Nylons have made a widely accepted success providing excellent performance and longevity. With a few different versions, this product line works extremely well in OEM, Manufacturing and many Food Processing applications. Check out this and other Nylon varieties on the Nylon page. Look in the upper right corner for the variety of material you are interested in.

Oilon PV80 vs. NylonCast Nylon vs. Oilon PV80

Nylon provides the best of all worlds when it comes to filled wear resistant materials. It is a rigid material with natural wear resistance. In addition, Nylon can be cast with a variety of fillers and additives (ie. Oil, Glass, Pigments, Graphite, etc.) that extend and improve many properties – and they are equally dispersed through out the material. The Nylon is superior in this blending process, whereas the Oilon PV80 did not blend well at all. Cast Nylon also is available in a huge range of sizes and shapes.

Also, let us know if you want more info on the old, antiquated and abandoned materials of old. Most of those old materials have been replaced by superior performance materials. While Nylon has been a staple for many years, the casting process has been perfected and is made in huge range of sizes and grades.

Take a step up to one of the  high tech grades of Nylon.

And forget the old Oilon PV80.

Bright Shiny and New (Web Site)!

Hello all. We have been listening to our clients, and they asked for a better performing website. So, we made it.

We have built it, and we hope you will come by to visit. At our clients request, we have added 70% more items and additional options of color and grades.

Why A New Web Site?

Clients were not happy with the speed, limited options and difficult navigation. While it was one of the better rated web sites in the Plastic Industry, we were not happy with good enough. So we made some rather major improvements and listened to you. This site runs much faster, we believe it is easier to navigate, and has more information than ever.

Just Because the Web Site Is new…

Just because the site is new, do not let that fool you. There is a vast array of new data and information. Plus we are adding new information and products to our web site on a regular basis. Let us know if there is something that you would like, we will try to add it to the web site. Please take a moment and let us know what you think.