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562 E XTRUSION

Movable
Saw

Extruder
Stack
Product
Cooling Tank
Can Be Puller
Vacuum or No
Vacuum

Figure 49.2 Schematic of equipment used in profile extrusion.

Figure 49.2 shows a profile line with an extruder, and flow modulus) for the resin and the throughput
cooling tank, puller, movable saw to cut the product, rate, computer programs can design the die cross-
and product packaging. The cooling tank can be section required, while predicting the pressure drops,
a vacuum calibration tank or a cooling tank without melt temperature, and flow profiles within the die.
vacuum, depending on the profile being produced. The die has to be properly designed to have
The movable saw can be replaced with an on-demand a uniform flow and pressure drops in all the legs of
rotary cutter or guillotine cutter; as with the cali- the profile. Improperly designed dies can lead to
bration and sizing tank, the cutter required depends severe warpage problems associated with the
on the profile size and the material. profiles. Higher polymer flow rates in one section of
We will now cover the equipment used in profile the die compared to that in another will result in
extrusion and its operation from the die through the different molecular orientations. This causes
end of the line. different shrinkage characteristics from one section
to the other. The melt temperature in all channels
needs to be similar to prevent one profile section from
49.1 Die being hotter than another. This can lead to differential
cooling outside the die and differential shrinkage and
One of the keys to successful profile extrusion is warpage. Another factor that can lead to warpage in
combining of good profile cross-sectional designs the final part is different molecular packing in one
with a good die design. Frequently, die designing for part of the die versus that in another part, attributed to
profile extrusion is done using trial and error methods a higher die pressure in one area compared to that in
in-house by the company producing the profile. another. Part areas with a higher molecular packing
A good die designer can machine the correct die produce less shrinkage compared to that in other part
shape to produce the specified profile in three to four sections. These factors are normally grouped under
die cuttings or modifications, whereas an inexperi- a general heading of internal stresses in the final part.
enced die designer may have to machine seven to Nonuniform internal stresses can cause warpage in
eight dies to obtain the desired profile. Some the final profile because the shrinkage is different
companies specialize in computer-aided die designs between one profile section relative to another.
based on computer modeling. With the desired Polymer melt pressure and flow in the various die
profile cross-section defined, the rheological param- sections can be kept constant through uniform wall
eters (viscosity versus shear rate, extension modulus, thickness and proper design. Figure 49.3 shows some

Figure 49.3 Comparison of


profiles with uniform versus Poor
nonuniform cross-sections. Designs

Good
Designs
49: P ROFILE E XTRUSION 563

different cross-sections with two different geome- Sink


tries, one being preferred over the other. In all cases,
the preferred geometry has a uniform wall thickness
around the entire part. Depending on the profile,
a constant wall thickness over the entire part is not Profile
always possible. The resistance to flow in a die Desired with
channel is given by Eqn (49.1): Profile Sink

DP
R ¼ (49.1)
hQ
Die Profile to
where Compensate for
Sink
R ¼ Resistance to flow
DP ¼ Pressure drop
h ¼ Melt viscosity Figure 49.4 Effect of sink and die modification to
Q ¼ Volumetric throughput rate eliminate sink.

Since the volumetric throughput of the different a rib that is readily visible. Figure 49.4 shows
channels has to be constant to prevent warpage, a T-type profile and the corresponding sink mark.
Q1 ¼ Q2 ¼ Q3 ¼ . Qn. If the melt temperature is the Elimination of the sink mark in the final part is
same and the shear rates are similar, the melt accomplished by making the area opposite the rib
viscosity in the different channels will be the same. slightly thicker, so that with shrinkage it has the same
This leaves the pressure drop to balance the resis- thickness as the rest of the profile does. The profiles
tance in each section or leg of the die. The pressure shown in Figures 49.3 and 49.4 should have radii on
drop is calculated from Eqn (49.2): all the inner angles. In addition, the die profile shown
in Figure 49.4 has to be cut differently than the part
profile to get flat sections on each leg. Stress relax-
2sl
DP ¼ (49.2) ation as the polymer molecules exit the die land area
h and are no longer bound by the die causes the
extrudate to swell. This extrudate swell phenomenon
where
is commonly and incorrectly called die swell.
Extrudate swell, discussed previously in Part 1, is
s ¼ Shear stress ¼ force/area
attributed to the elastic portion of the viscoelastic
l ¼ Channel length
behavior that makes the polymer want to spring back
h ¼ Channel height.
after the polymer exits the die. In the die land area,
the polymer flow simulates the plug flow in a pipe,
If the cross-sectional area of each output section or
where the polymer velocity at the wall is zero. After
leg is the same, the pressure drop in each leg will be
the polymer exits the die, the velocity profile is the
identical, assuming that the rest of the die has
same at the surface as it is in the center. This is shown
a uniform melt flow. To change the flow resistance in
in Figure 49.5. Extrudate swell requires the die to be
different legs, the land length is modified, making it
cut differently than the actual profile desired.
longer in thicker profile sections and shorter in
thinner profile sections to produce equivalent pres-
sure drops. If it is possible, it is better to maintain
a uniform wall thickness in all areas of the profile.
Sink marks opposite ribs are eliminated with a part
design. Sink is caused by shrinkage. Extruded
profiles with thicker cross-sectional areas shrink
more due to the higher mass than do adjoining
thinner areas. This creates an imperfection opposite Figure 49.5 Extrudate swell as polymer exits die.
564 E XTRUSION

Die perspective and the potential need for vacuum


sizing. It is better to have through holes in
a profile than uneven wall thicknesses. Uneven
walls can lead to more significant processing
problems.

A profile die is attached to the extruder with an


adapter that funnels the melt to a die cross-section
that is slightly larger than the profile cross-section.
Three die designs are used, depending on the
Figure 49.6 Die configuration to produce a square production run length and the polymer being
profile. processed:

 Flat back
Figure 49.6 shows the profile that occurs when  Semistreamlined
a square exit is used and the die configuration needed  Streamlined
to produce a square profile.
A proper die design is required to produce uniform Flat back dies are used for low-volume or proto-
parts at high rates without warpage. Design criteria type runs that last four to six hours. A flat back die is
include the following: a flat plate with the desired profile cut into its center
and mounted to a round tube that conveys the molten
 Thicker walls require more time for cooling, polymer from the extruder. The die plate is flat on the
leading to lower production rates. Calculate side facing the extruder and is bolted directly onto the
the wall thickness required based on the pro- tube comprising the die body. The disadvantages
duct performance requirements. The ideal wall associated with a flat plate die are dead spaces in the
thickness is approximately 0.03e0.12 in. die body around the front plate, where molten poly-
(0.7e3.0 mm). mer can stagnate and degrade, and poor flow patterns
 Wall thickness can be reduced and can still within the die body. A semistreamlined die, shown in
provide the same stiffness with the incorporation Figure 49.7, has a tapered channel in the die body
of ribs on the back side or the use of corrugated
structures. Flat Plate Die
 Uneven wall thicknesses lead to an uneven flow Recess for
Breaker Die Face
in the die and differential profile cooling that can Plate Polymer
lead to warpage, bow, and twist in the final part. Melt
If more than one wall thickness is present in the Channel
part, make a gradual transition from one wall
thickness to the next. Profile
 Ribs lead to sink marks caused by the extra mass Figure 49.7 Semistreamlined die.
and the polymer shrinkage. Eliminating sink
marks can be accomplished by building the
profile up opposite the rib or making the rib that compresses the polymer flow as it approaches the
smaller so that there is less material. In any die plate. Although dead and stagnate places are still
event, generous radii between the rib and the present, the area where polymer degradation can
rest of the parts are required to provide the occur is greatly reduced. The best die has a stream-
necessary strength. lined polymer melt channel that leads directly to the
 All inner and outer corners need to be designed land area with no dead spots for polymer stagnation
with proper radii, eliminating sharp corners. and degradation. There is no dead space within the
Sharp corners generate high stress areas that die where polymer can hang up or stagnate and
can cause premature part failure. degrade over time. The die is designed to produce
 Eliminate through holes in the profile wherever a uniform flow velocity in all the channels with less
possible; these are expensive from both a tooling extrudate swell and melt fracture. Streamlined dies
49: P ROFILE E XTRUSION 565

are used in long production runs where polymer best way to establish the land length is to provide
cannot be allowed to degrade. Obviously, semi- sufficient land to generate 1000e1500 psi across the
streamlined dies are somewhere between the two die land.
extremes. Some dies are made with inserts allowing Drawdown ratio is the draw between the die and
different shapes or slight modifications of a basic the final shape. As polymer exits the die, it is drawn
profile to be made more easily. by the puller and shaped by a sizing device to
Key factors in die design are the land length and produce the desired shape. The draw determines the
the drawdown ratio. The land length is defined as the final molecular orientation in the part and the product
uniform flow channel just prior to the die exit. The performance. Higher draw ratios yield higher prop-
land lengths within the die determine the flow resis- erties in the machine direction and lower properties
tance for the different profile sections or channels. in the transverse direction. With a specific cross-
Thinner profile sections require less land length than section, the throughput rate is matched to one puller
do thicker sections in the profile to produce the same speed to produce the desired profile dimensions.
flow resistance. Longer land lengths are used to Increasing or decreasing the puller speed results in
produce profiles with a higher gloss. The proper land the part being too small or too large. Table 49.1
length depends on the die gap, the orifice area, flow provides some drawdown ratio guidelines. The
rates, melt viscosity, and the optimum pressure for drawdown ratio in a particular operation depends on
the die and extruder. Just selecting the land length as the profile and the performance criteria. Since most
some multiple of the gap (assume 10, 20, or 30 times profile dies do not have adjustable lips, the cutting of
the gap) ignores the factors that are critical in a given the die determines the draw. If a different draw is
die and profile. Die land lengths are recommended by required to obtain the correct profile, a new die
resin manufacturers, and some guidelines are generally has to be cut. This is one reason why three
provided in Table 49.1 [1]. These should be consid- or four dies may be cut to produce the correct profile
ered as guidelines only, as each die is different. The dimensions and a final part that meets all the
customer specifications.
Die temperature control is another key variable
Table 49.1 Recommended Drawdown Ratios and affecting the profile and uniformity. The die has to
Land Lengths have uniform heat to provide a uniform melt
viscosity across the entire profile. Large profiles may
Die Land
require insulation around the die to maintain uniform
Material Length* Drawdown, %
die temperature. The die face may be a large area
LDPE 15:1 30 with only a single heater band around the outside
MDPE 15:1 25 edge to maintain the temperature. Changes in die
HDPE 15:1 20 temperature affect the melt temperature, with high
temperatures producing lower melt viscosities.
PP 15:1 30
Many profile dies are required due to the large
PPVC 15:1 5e25 variety of cross-sections produced. Compared to
UPVC 20:1 4e10 other extrusion processes, there are more tricks to the
GPS 20:1 8e20 trade and art involved, rather than science, in profile
extrusion. In addition to the many profiles and resins
ABS 25:1 25 used in profile extrusion, the process is further
Nylon 6,6 20:1 15e20 complicated by adding regrind or using regrind for
Nylon 6 20:1 20 the entire profile. Regrind is used to extend the resin
PC 10:1 15e25
in many applications. Figure 49.8 shows an Amer-
Ò
ican Maplan Corporation [2] single screw extruder
Noryl 20:1 25e40 producing tubing with a secondary extruder adding
LDPE, low-density polyethylene; HDPE, high-density polyethylene; a stripe to the tube and a calibration tank to properly
PP, polypropylene; ABS, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene; PC, size the tube.
polycarbonate; PPVC, plasticized polyvinyl chloride; UPVC,
Die construction is usually made of 4140, 420, or
unplasticized polyvinyl chloride; MDPE, medium density poly-
ethylene; GPS, general purpose styrene 17-4 PH steel. All the three steels have a similar
*Land length to thickness ratio. Rockwell hardness, but 4140 has a poor corrosion
566 E XTRUSION

Figure 49.8 American Maplan Feed Hopper Extruder 2 Profile Die to Produce
profile coextrusion line with a Tube with a Second
Single
Extruder to Add a
tubing die, stripper extruder, and Screw
Stripe
Extruder
vacuum sizing tank.

Vacuum
Sizing Tank
Automatic
Screen Changer

resistance, with 420 having excellent corrosion Air cooling can be used for simple shapes where
resistance and 17-4 PH falling in the middle. 4140 tolerances are relatively unimportant. Metal fingers
and 420 can be hardened by heat treating and and jigs are used to bend or shape the profile to the
quenching. 17-4 PH is not practical for applications desired configuration. One advantage of air cooling is
>600  F (316  C) because it gets embrittled. For that it is relatively slow; consequently, there is
high gloss finish, the die land area is highly polished sufficient time to alter the profile with jigs to freeze it
or can be chrome or nickel plated. Polishing to a very in the desired configuration. This is a quick approach
low microroughness or plating with chrome or nickel to use with small simple profiles that do not have
leads to extra expenses. critical dimensions, such as thin flat stock, vertical
blinds, U- or T-shaped profile. The most important
49.2 Calibration and Cooling Tank criteria in these applications are a uniform melt
temperature, good melt strength, and uniform cooling
Cooling and sizing or calibration is used to set the around the entire part. Air is directed onto the profile
part dimensions while preventing the part from with adjustable position nozzles mounted at the
warping and twisting. Part fixtures or sizing depends beginning of the cooling section as the profile exits
on the part complexity. The simplest setup has the die. Uniform cooling is required to eliminate
adjustable metal fingers shaping the soft polymer as it warpage and twisting associated with differential
exits the die, with fans blowing air on the profile to shrinkage. Assuming the flow from the die is uniform
cool it. The profile may be supported by wood forms and the profile is not being dragged across a surface
or by a metal rack. Although this is the simplest way in the cooling operation, profile bowing, or twisting
to cool a profile, it is also the most inaccurate, is frequently caused by nonuniform cooling. The
producing profiles with very low dimensional toler- profile will bend or cup toward the hot surface or the
ances. For thermoplastics generally, more intricate side that cooled last. This fact helps identify the
sizing fixtures or calibrators are used with complex causes and the proper corrective actions to take in
shapes in calibration tanks. The sizing unit may be modifying the cooling operation.
a long metal fixture containing the desired profile Water cooling begins when the profile enters
shape where the molten polymer is pulled through a bath below the water level and enters a fixture to
and allowed to solidify, possibly in a water environ- size and hold the profile during cooling. The profile
ment. As the part exits the die, it passes through may pass through a ring spraying water on all sides
a small air space and into the sizing unit or calibrator simultaneously or water nozzles prior to entering the
where it is cooled with air or water spray, flooded water tank. Water cooling is very efficient, is good for
with water, or goes through a metal calibrator with short runs, and may suffer in repeatability between
circulating water and a heat exchanger to freeze or short runs, depending on the fixture quality, its
solidify the part to its final dimensions. location, and the operator skill. Options available are
49: P ROFILE E XTRUSION 567

the tank length; the number of chambers in the tank; include heat exchanger, full spray cooling compart-
whether the water is applied in the form of a mist or ments, water circulation system, multiple compart-
spray, flood, or a combination of both in different ments, vacuum pumps, additional vacuum or water
parts of the chamber; temperature of the water (hot or manifolds to attach external calibration units for
cold); self-contained recirculation systems; and heat initial sizing, additional vacuum and water ports that
exchanger. can be connected to calibrators inside the vacuum
A more sophisticated cooling system is vacuum tank, and uniform water or spray temperature.
sizing or calibration under water, where a hollow Dry vacuum calibration is used to size complex,
profile, whether round or square, exits the die and rigid shapes requiring a high dimensional precision
enters a sizing or calibration unit in an underwater and accuracy, such as window profiles. One or more
vacuum tank. The water acts as a lubricant in the calibrators or sizing fixtures are used with
calibrator. Lower vacuum pressure enables the air in a secondary spray cooling tank. Enough heat is
the hollow profile to expand uniformly outward until dissipated in the calibrator to hold the profile
it comes into contact with the sizing sleeve or cali- dimensions after exiting the calibrator, even though
brator to produce the desired external dimension. additional profile shrinkage occurs as the profile
Vacuum sizing units may have several compartments cools to room temperature. Calibrators can be made
where the vacuum level can be adjusted, and the of aluminum, steel, or stainless steel. Cast aluminum
water can either surround the profile or be sprayed on calibrators may have steel inserts machined to the
it at different temperatures. Normally, the highest desired profile shape to extend the wear life of the
vacuum is in the first compartment, where the poly- calibrator. Aluminum is inexpensive and easy to
mer is being expanded to the maximum amount as machine, but the wear surface has to be hardened to
the surface skin forms. Initially, the profile will be extend its life. If a calibrator is going to be used in
larger than the final dimensional requirements to high-volume production, stainless steel is the mate-
accommodate the polymer shrinkage as the polymer rial of choice. The calibrator surfaces can be highly
cools completely to room temperature. Figure 49.9 polished or chrome or nickel plated to improve the

Figure 49.9 A vacuum sizing tank


produced by Boston Matthews.
Source: Boston Matthews, Incorporated,
36 Oak Street, Norwood, NJ.

shows a vacuum sizing tank produced by Boston profile surface. One of the most important factors is
Matthews [3]. All tanks are fitted with lifters and the calibrator length. It has to be sufficiently long to
adjustments allowing the tank to be moved horizon- provide enough cooling to hold the dimensions while
tally toward or away from the profile as it exits the running at high throughput rates. Once the profile
die. The profile enters the tank passing down through exits the calibrator, it is cooled further with water
the various compartments and exiting through the spray. For cooling, the calibrator body has water
opposite end after it has been solidified in the correct channels to circulate water through the calibrator and
cross-section. Options available on most sizing tanks a heat exchanger to remove the heat from the
568 E XTRUSION

circulating water. The calibrator may also contain The calibration table can be moved up or down, or
vacuum connections where a vacuum source can be from side to side, to align the calibrator with the
connected to the calibrator to expand hollow profiles. extrusion die and the downstream equipment. A good
The calibrator can be mounted on a calibration calibration table is required with high-tolerance parts
table where the water and vacuum lines are con- to guarantee that the profile meets the final dimension
nected to the calibrator. After exiting the cali- specifications. The process should not be speed
brator, the profile may pass through an additional limited by the calibration unit length or its ability to
cooling tank. Alternatively, the calibrator may be hold dimensions. Although the calibration unit is
placed on a table that is in the first calibration tank expensive in comparison to the extruder, die, and raw
section. The hoses and vacuum lines are connected materials, it is a relatively inexpensive part of the
to the calibrator with the lines going to a manifold production line. Profile rate limitation by either
that can be quickly connected and disconnected cooling capacity or the ability to hold dimensions
through individual couplings. Manifold systems established by the calibrator is a problem that is
with individual flow control valves and vacuum normally easily corrected. At high rates, the cali-
gauges with quick disconnect couplings allow brator in complex profiles may be 5 ft long, or
calibrator tooling to be changed quickly. Most multiple calibrators with different cooling along the
calibration tables have their own self-contained way may be required to produce a suitable profile at
vacuum system and water recirculation system high throughput rates in good yield. Calibrators may
with heat exchanger to provide both uniform operate at slightly lower throughput rates compared
vacuum and constant water temperature and flow. to either sizing units or air cooling because of the
Figure 49.10 shows the water and vacuum mani- higher friction between the calibrator surface and the

Figure 49.10 An ESI vacuum sizing


tank.
Source: Extrusion Services, Incorporated,
850 Moe Drive, Akron, OH.

folds on the calibration table prior to the spray unit moving profile. This is more than compensated for
that is enclosed in a tank. The equipment in with improved dimensional precision.
Figure 49.10 is supplied by Extrusion Services Conair [5] has introduced supercold nitrogen gas
Incorporated (ESI) [4]. The first part of the unit is to cool parts more rapidly in less space than water
where the dry calibrator is located, with water and does. Since cooling is quicker, line speeds can be
vacuum lines going from the manifold on the increased and calibrators and cooling tanks short-
calibrator table to the tooling. In the second part of ened. Liquid nitrogen is converted to a chilled gas,
the tank, a water spray or additional calibrators are and it is circulated around the profile at rates up to
used to fix the part geometry as the profile is being 2000 cfm. The liquid nitrogen itself never comes into
cooled to room temperature. contact with the hot extruded profile, preventing
49: P ROFILE E XTRUSION 569

thermal shock from altering the material perfor-  Cellular polyurethane has very high abrasion
mance. Liquid nitrogen is converted to gas when it resistance.
enters the cooling chamber, expanding rapidly to
replace any room air. The chilled nitrogen gas is Other belt materials are available; belts need to be
circulated with a high-velocity blower around the fit to the application. Belts are available with varying
extrudate, producing turbulent air flow, aiding the hardness, abrasion resistance, and coefficient of fric-
heat transfer from the extruded profile. Temperatures tion or gripping abilities. Pullers come in widths and
in the cooling zones can be controlled between 300 lengths ranging from 4.5 to 12 in. (114e305 mm) and
and 75  F (184 to 24  C). Multiple cooling zones from 2.5 to 12 ft (760e3050 mm), respectively. The
can be used during calibration and cooling to opti- belt size required depends on the profile dimensions,
mize the process efficiency. Nitrogen cooling has with larger, wider profiles requiring wider and longer
been successfully used to cool window, fence, and caterpillar belts. Longer puller lengths allow the
tubing profiles in less space at higher throughput profile to be gripped with less pressure, minimizing
rates. profile distortion while still providing enough pulling
Since all thermoplastics shrink on cooling, the die power to pull the profile uniformly through the cali-
has to be properly cut and the calibrator properly brator and sizing fixtures. Figure 49.11 shows a puller
sized to allow for shrinkage as the product cools to
room temperature. Additional shrinkage occurs with
cooling and postcrystallization if the profile is not
completely cooled down to room temperature before
it is cut. Shrinkage is balanced with the drawdown to
ensure the correct dimensions in the final part.

49.3 Puller
The puller or haul-off unit pulls the product from
the die through the calibrator or sizing tank at
a constant rate with the correct drawdown ratio to
produce the proper dimensions. Caterpillar-type
pullers come with a wide selection of belt materials
and styles for different profiles. Pressure applied by
the puller has to pull the profile at uniform speed
regardless of the tension created by the calibration
process, without crushing or distorting the profile in
any way. Flat belts are used with flexible profiles,
rigid profiles where sophisticated calibrators are not
required, and tubing. Various belt materials have
different properties:

 Natural gum rubber used for smooth extrudates


where a high grip surface is required.
 Cellular neoprene provides a good gripping
Figure 49.11 Conair puller.
surface where high abrasion resistance is Source: The Conair Group, One Conair Drive, Pittsburgh, PA.
required.
 Silicone rubber that has good high temperature
resistance. with a flat belt produced by Conair [6]. Custom
 EPDM is good for high temperature resistance. profilers prefer to use belt pullers due to their flexi-
 Latex rubber has good frictional characteristics. bility and ease of operation.
 Solid neoprene is hard with good resiliency and The motor and drive control are related to cost, the
is nonmarking. speed range required, and the ability of the drive to