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Plastic Processing

Plastic processing is converting the plastics’ raw bulk material into (semi-) finished products.

Plastics are the most common materials for producing (semi-) finished products, from consumer products to medical devices. Plastics are a versatile category of materials, with thousands of polymer options, each with its specific mechanical properties. Plastic manufacturing processes have been developed to cover many applications and part geometries. For any designer and engineer working in product development, it is critical to be familiar with today’s manufacturing options and the new developments that signal how parts will be made tomorrow. Several complications can arise during the plastic manufacturing process.

Poor flow can occur when handling the bulk plastic resin, pellets, pastille, and granules. These material flow problems include sticking, blocking, and segregation. Product quality problems can result from material stagnation in storage bins, pellet damage (fines generation), or cross-contamination of batches. Pneumatic conveying of bulk plastics can lead to the formation of angel hair, also referred to as streamers, floss, and snakeskin, which can plug downstream equipment.

Plastic processing can be defined as converting the plastics’ raw ingredients into (semi-) finished products.

These bulk plastics come in resin, granules, pellets, powders, sheets, preforms, or fluids and are converted into formed shapes or parts. Plastic materials can contain various additives that may influence their properties and processability.

After forming, the plastic part may be subjected to various processes such as welding, adhesive bonding, machining, and surface decorating.

  1. Primary Plastic Processing: Injection molding, Extrusion, Blow molding, Compression, and transfer molding.
  1. Secondary Plastic Processing: Rotational molding, Thermoforming, Coating, Casting, Fabrication, and Calendaring.
  1. Tertiary Plastic Processing: Cutting, Drilling, Welding, and Bending.

Plastic being handled

Plastics raw material

There is a variety of methods used to process plastics raw materials. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and some processing methods are better suited for specific applications.

Before producing plastic products, specific plastic forming processes need to be determined.

These plastic processing methods include:

Injection molding

The primary method used for processing plastic is injection molding. Injection molding is a manufacturing process for producing parts by injecting material into a mold.

Reaction Injection Molding

Reaction injection molding (RIM) is a relatively new plastic process used in the industry. RIM is similar to injection molding, but RIM always uses lightweight, cost-efficient thermosetting polymers, unlike traditional injection molding.

Blow molding

Blow molding is used when the plastic item needs to be hollow. A molten tube is created with blow molding using compressed air, which blows up the line and forces it to conform to the chilled mold.

Extrusion

Plastic granules or pellets are fluidized, homogenized, and continuously formed in this process. The method of extrusion is usually used to make products such as tubing, pipe, sheet, film, coat wire, and cables.

Compression molding

With the compression molding process, the material is squeezed into its desired shape with the help of pressure and heat. Plastic molding powder and other materials are added to the mix to create unique qualities or strengthen the final product.

Transfer molding

Transfer molding is generally used only for forming thermosetting plastics. Transfer molding is an adaptation of compression molding in that the molding powder or preform is charged to a separate pre-heating chamber and, when appropriately fluidized, injected into a closed mold.

Thermoforming

Thermoforming is a manufacturing process where a plastic sheet is heated to a manageable forming temperature, formed to a specific part shape in a mold, and trimmed to create a usable product.

Several processes are used to convert the plastics’ raw bulk material into (semi-) finished products, and these processes are described above. Critical processes for handling bulk plastics include storage, big bag handling, conveying, pressing, rolling, extrusion, and molding.

Essential bulk plastic process equipment includes:

This plastics process equipment is used to process plastic products on an industrial scale.

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering waste plastic and reprocessing the (bulk) material into useful (semi-) finished products. The plastic recycling method has become more advanced and efficient in recent years. The plastic recycling process is an alternative to reduce waste and an economically viable option in the production of new goods. Plastics recycling involves collecting, sorting, washing, resizing, separating, extruding, pelletizing, and manufacturing processes.

The stage of recycled plastic

The plastic processing market is a heavily-regulated and intensive industry, which makes staying up-to-date on all developments crucial, and helps plastic processors run their businesses more effectively. Receiving relevant insights regarding plastic processing innovations can be extremely useful to industry professionals responsible for operating, maintaining, and managing plastic manufacturing plants in the world. A plastic processing company is considered innovative when it invests significant capital in researching and developing a particular process.

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Articles about Plastic Processing

Experts for Plastic Processing

Matthew Bailey – Technical Lead

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Chris has been working at Spiroflow for over 10 years and is currently in the role of technical sales manager. He handles all the technical drawings and specifications during the sale and aides our drawing office while the equipment is designed, he also assists the manufacturing department with the build. His vast knowledge of powder handling and mechanical design is why he is involved in every aspect of designing our powder handling solutions.
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Nathan Grube is Regional Vice President of Sales for BinMaster covering the central United States including a ten-state area stretching from North Dakota to Texas. He joined BinMaster in 2001, already equipped with five years of experience in agricultural equipment. Grube has worked with end users, distributors, and OEMs across the US. His vast expertise covers many industries including agriculture, aggregates, cement, plastics, and mining, among others.
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Gareth Meese works as Regional Sales Director – EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, India, and Northern Africa) for Eriez-Europe, a global leader in several key technology areas, including magnetic separation, metal detection, and material handling equipment. With nearly 20 years of experience in continuously-evolving positions, Gareth is well versed in bulk material handling applications. When Gareth joined Eriez as an Export Sales Engineer, he led several Eriez teams tasked with expanding business throughout Scandinavia, the Baltic States, and the Czech Republic. Later, as Export Sales Manager, he concentrated on growing Eriez-Europe in Russia, Europe and Northern Africa. His recent promotion expands his geographic responsibilities further with the addition of the Middle East and India. Gareth has been instrumental in pursuing Eriez’ vision and holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Cardiff University. Gareth is more than prepared to discuss and recommend a tailored solution for any unique bulk material handling application.
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Chuck Johnson is the director of sales at National Bulk Equipment, located in Holland, Michigan. His professional experience includes over 25 years in the design, engineering, & sales of bulk material handling equipment & systems. Johnson holds a BS in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.
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Travis has over 20 years of experience in the dry bulk solids industry and is the President at Vortex, an engineering and manufacturing company that specialises in process valves and loading solutions specifically for solids handling. Travis has worked on solution-driven installations across six continents and has a strong knowledge of market-specific regulations and requirements within the industry.
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As the Sales Manager at Foeth, Michel Terlouw possesses an enthusiasm for international trade and excels in identifying the perfect match for every customer. In a company like Foeth, individuals with a solid technical background are truly indispensable. Clients from across the globe visit to explore our extensive inventory of pre-owned machines, and it’s essential to collaborate closely with each customer to determine which machine best suits their intended application. Michel is impassioned by the collaborative process of discovering the ideal machine alongside the customer because it aligns with our mission. The pursuit of finding the perfect solution is not only gratifying but also contributes to advancing sustainability within the industry.
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