An Era of Innovation for the Plastic Industry
3-D printing has become a very interesting and desirable
aspect of the plastic industry. Many people, consumers and manufacturers alike,
have been impacted by the effects of this revolutionizing technology. 3-D
printing has become more affordable in recent years which allow a wider range
of users to not only utilize this machinery but expand it into a multitude of
industries. 3-D printing has the potential to make an impression on how
everyday products are obtained. For example if a consumer is renovating his or
her home it may be beneficial to have a 3-D printer to make plastic items such
as plastic trim, fixtures and other components. However manufacturers can also
benefit from the unique aspects of 3-D printing.
The additive manufacturing feature of 3-D printing allows
for products to be formed in layers instead of the product being carved out a
larger chuck of material. This newer style results in very little waste which
contributes to a smaller carbon footprint while creating a more sustainable
product. Creativity is also one of the key factors revolving around 3-D
printing and plastic manufacturers could benefit from the ability to have a
greater level of control over their products.
Innovations like 3-D printing contribute to less plastic
waste which is extremely beneficial to our environment. In 2011 the EPA
estimated the United States
generated nearly 32 million tons of plastic waste. However many communities,
lawmakers, and manufacturers are making great strides to reduce our plastic
waste through better recycling programs and new innovations.
Plastic trim products are linear extruded profiles that can be extruded
to any length. Plastic trim has many uses as a result of its ability to
attach, hold, guard and seal. A wide variety of industries use various
types of plastic, HDPE, LDPE, butyrate, PVC, acrylic and vinyl trim in a
diversity of applications, and plastic extruders are often capable of
catering to multiple industries due to the versatility of the plastic
extrusion process. PVC is the most common material used to form plastic
Many different types of plastic trim with fairly close tolerances can be fabricated with plastic extrusion simply by changing the die through which the molten plastic is pushed. Construction industries use plastic trim quite extensively, not only for window trim and insulation, but for outdoor siding, indoor and outdoor trim, door frame trim and insulation, and for guards and bumpers around sharp corners and edges. Appliance manufacturers use flexible PVC and vinyl trim for refrigerator and stove door sealant, while automotive industries use profiled trim for interior and exterior trim and fenders. In addition, furniture, marine and recreational industries use plastic trim for numerous incidentals. Common types of plastic trim includes J trim, edge trim, decorative trim, fender flare trim, brush guard trim, lip trim and drip rail trim.
In order to begin the plastic extrusion process, thermoplastic pellets or flakes are fed into a hopper placed atop a closed extruding channel. Gravity feeds the raw plastic material down into the extruding channel; running through the length of the channel is a screw conveyor that moves the raw plastic along towards the opposite end, shearing and heating the plastic through friction. Electric heaters built into the extruding channel often help the screw conveyor to plasticize, or melt, the plastic pellets so that the plastic is completely molten by the time it comes to the end of the channel. Near the end of the channel, the molten plastic leaves the screw and travels through a screen pack in order to remove any contaminants. The screens are reinforced by a breaker plate, which is a thick metal puck with many holes drilled through it, because the pressure at this point can exceed 5,000 PSI. The molten plastic must pass through the breaker plate before entering the die. The die is secured on the end of the conveyor channel and forms the molten plastic into a specific profile as it is pushed, or extruded, through by the screw conveyor. The newly formed plastic profile is instantly cooled, often by pulling the newly extruded trim through a water bath, pulled through by a series of conveyors and cut to appropriate lengths. Plastic trim is often co-extruded, combining hard plastic with softer plastic or molded rubber to create soft sealing trim with hard fixtures.
Images Provided by Britech Industries