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The Thick and Thin of Plastics Extrusion

Plastic extrusion companies support a global industry valued at more than $185 billion, with the North American market accounting for 21% of that volume.

The Extrusion Process

The plastics extrusion process begins with resin in a hopper being fed into a barrel. A screw within the barrel mixes, heats and pushes the resin through a die that creates the product’s desired shape. Heating bands or cooling devices can be used to regulate the temperature of the resin in the barrel.

Several types of extrusion are available, including:

  • Blown film extrusion, used to create plastic bags and films
  • Sheet/film extrusion, for sheets too thick to be created using blown film extrusion; often a precursor to thermoforming
  • Tubing extrusion, which can create anything from simple to complex profiles
  • Over jacketing extrusion, which applies plastic insulation to the outside of cables and wires
  • Coextrusion, which allows multiple layers of different materials to be extruded together, taking advantage of each material’s inherent characteristics to form the final product
  • Extrusion coating, which layers a polymer over another material, such as paper, foil or film

End Markets

Plastic extrusion companies serve a wide range of end markets, such as:

  • Food and beverage
  • Protective packaging
  • Building and construction
  • Automotive
  • Power and lighting
  • Electrical and electronics
  • Medical and pharmaceutical

Resins typically used in plastics extrusion include polyethylene, polypropylene, acetal, acrylic, nylon, polystyrene, PVC, ABS and polycarbonate. Each is used for specific applications.

For instance, low density polyethylene (LDPE), which accounts for the largest segment of plastics extrusion, is used to make garbage bags, industrial sheeting, construction and agricultural coatings, produce bags and bakery films, as well as cable sheathing, among other items.

Polystyrene, on the other hand, is used in consumer products like frames, cable ducts, tubes, sale displays/signage, containers, bottles, trays, tumblers and disposable cutlery.

Plastic extrusions also are used an alternative to aluminum and wood in doors and windows, thanks to their excellent insulating properties and resistance to sun, wind and water exposure.

Examples of plastic extrusion companies, include ProVia, which makes vinyl siding and replacement windows, and Champion Plastics, which produces polyethylene packaging.

Visit polysort.com for a comprehensive list of plastic extruders.