Basics of Plastic Profile Extrusion
When I joined Geist Plastics three years ago this month, I didn’t know anything about plastics extrusion. I had experience in several other fields, including construction and banking, but I wouldn’t have recognized an extruder if I tripped over it. So when it comes to learning the basics of profile extrusion, if you or any of your colleagues don’t understand it, believe me when I say it’s a manufacturing process you can easily grasp.
In brief, plastics extrusion is the process of using a machine to take raw plastic material and melt it, push it through a metal block (a die) to form the desired product, cool it and, ultimately, cut it into specific lengths. The types of plastics products manufactured using extrusion range from pipes and electrical covers to window frames and fence. If you’d like detailed information on the plastics extrusion process, you can read about it here.
About half of our customers know they need extruded products but aren’t familiar with the manufacturing process. One question we’re frequently asked is whether we can use tooling made by another company. The answer is yes; we have a steel adapter to make their tooling work with our machine. Another question is whether we can make prototypes. The answer is no; it’s cost-prohibitive because the custom dies we make range from $3,000 to $80,000. A typical production run of an extruded profile ranges from a few thousand feet in a single shift to hundreds of thousands of feet produced over a couple of weeks. If a client really needs a prototype, however, we can use a 3D printer to create it.
We spend a lot of time educating customers about product color options, tooling costs and materials. Most customers don’t want too much detail. For instance, they just want to know if the material they suggest will shatter easily or if it’s unbreakable; they don’t want to know the components of the materials. But if you’re among those who want in-depth information on how extrusion works, just say so. Along with our in-house experts we have outstanding outside resources. When customers come to us with “off the wall” projects – materials that are difficult to work with or odd-shaped profiles – we turn to our industry consultant for some pointers on getting started. He’s so renowned he’s in the Plastics Hall of Fame. (I bet you didn’t even know there was a Plastics Hall of Fame!)
I hope this issue of our newsletter has been helpful. Feel free to share it with your coworkers or peers who buy plastic extrusion. And if you have questions about an extruded product, call or email us.