Tooling for Plastics Extrusions Lesson 102
In this second of our ‘educational’ blogs we introduce the subject of tooling. When asked what the word “tooling” means in the context of the plastic extrusion process, there is a two-part answer. Part one is the die, which is used to shape the cross-section of the profile as the plastic is extruded. If you have ever played with a Play-doh machine or own a pasta maker, you are already familiar with the workings of a die; the concept is almost the same. The second component of tooling is the post-extrusion handling of the profile — in order to meet tolerances, the process may require only air cooling, or something more complex, such as processing in temperature-controlled water baths in calibrators, which sometimes also contain vacuum capabilities.
Tooling requirements vary widely, and are based primarily on the type of material, the tolerances required, and production quantity. For example, a robustly constructed or streamlined die will allow the plastic to be extruded faster. Tolerances will be more exact, and more complex profiles can be achieved. Streamlined dies are perfect for fast, high volume production. For short run jobs, a less elaborate die might do just fine, although it could be at the expense of speed. Material choice is also a factor in tooling design. Each type of plastic withstands the heat of the extrusion process in its own unique way, and the tooling must allow for the proper temperature and flow of material to be maintained throughout the manufacturing process.
Proper tooling is critical to a successful outcome. At Preferred Plastics, we are fortunate in that we have a strong team of tooling specialists able to engineer the most ideal tooling solution for each job, which gives us control of both quality and timing. Fabricating the tooling in-house is also more economical than going to an outside vendor — and we are able to pass those savings on to you.
We hope this overview was able to provide you with a basic sense of tooling and the role it plays in the manufacturing process. Stay tuned to our blog pages for the next lesson!