Some of these techniques may be conducted in-line or off-line, and there are both customized and standard machinery suited to each particular value-added step. The extent of capability in this area also speaks to the line where a plastics extruder supersedes mere “converterprocessor” and is able to act as a true plastics partner or advisor for your business.

Fig. 2 – Value-added techniques provide finishing touches to an extruded part.
For combined with value-added, post extrusion engineering and fabrication, custom extrusion and extruders themselves, as a process choice by customers, may more successfully supply parts that otherwise would be biased by end-users to only molded or other process opportunities, often with substantial upfront cost savings for small batch production in particular. The range of product opportunities is thus significantly expanded with these value-added capabilities. (See Figure 2)

Program Management

When considering a custom plastics extruder, be sure to ask “what’s your development process,” or “how might this program be managed between our two organizations?” Often overlooked as a criterion, a processor with a proven program management process and development protocol within its organization can save crippling headaches and second-guesses later. The company program can speak to its development team(s); sales-engineering coordination; site coordination, if multisite/national rollout is a factor; die and sample turnaround time; rapid prototyping capabilities; fast quoting and cost estimation; and finally, product launch.

Fig. 3 – Many plastic buyers struggle to understand the challenges behind the extrusion process, one in which a lot can still go wrong once the extrudate leaves the die.
A formal, yet flexible, program management process can confirm in advance an extruder’s overall sophistication as well as customer friendliness, especially if the project requires scale and capacity beyond the average order size. We all want that “easy” button to push when we need to work through an important, complex project, and good program management and communication may make one extrusion operation much easier to do business with than others. (See Figure 3)

Past Examples

Published participating markets and applications provide a general overview of where a company “plays” in the world of plastics, and where it has had commercial success. Yet the details or idiosyncrasies of these given applications may be foreign to you or your business industry. These unknown specifics are often incredibly relevant and important to your project or component extrusion needs, because within the examples are revelations of capabilities and experience that could give your project a leg-up on time and cost.

So take the time and invest in a thorough questioning of past experience and importantly, past failures. A good custom extruder will be honest upfront about its capabilities and inabilities. Request a series of case study examples, from which the lessons of a company’s successes AND failures can help you find the right plastics extruder partner.

This article was written by Matt Robida, Vice President of Business Development, Pexco, Alpharetta, GA. For more information, Click Here . MD&M Minneapolis, Booth 1137