The “Custom Extrusion” Moment, Part II
Part I of our discussion highlighted the unique capabilities and value of custom plastics and extrusion. We reviewed both sides of the custom vendor debate, outlined the challenging needs of OEM businesses, and summarized the top five advantages this partnership can bring to the table.
With this exposition we’d like to take a look precisely where Part I left off and focus on the extent to which a custom extruder makes full use of its “Last Touch” resources and adds finished value to extruded components. Importantly, we’d like to examine exactly how skilled, value-added engineering expands the reach of extruded plastics into product forms beyond the two-dimensional cross section.
Naturally this approach begs the question, why is it important that we consider an expanded definition of custom or specialty extrusion’s capabilities? In short, for a range of applications, orders, and production runs, extrusion is simply a better value.
So, let's again start with a premise, but this time one that we think is widely held and important to rebut: If an OEM business needs a plastic, three dimensional component part, then its first task is to contact its molded plastic suppliers.
Wrong. There are several reasons that this immediate default position to plastic molding is incorrect. In fact, specialty extruders often feature capabilities that are better suited to certain product configurations than molders.
Today, the capacity within a single custom extruder for multiple product-finishing touches can result in economic as well as “technologic” advantages.
Upfront Cost Advantages
Molding die costs are notoriously high, while the reverse is true relatively for extrusion. This distinction is especially but not solely relevant for smaller run production, where the costs of molding dies can become prohibitive to the manufacture of the part. Die start-up and even sampling costs for molding can be at a minimum four times greater than with extrusion, and that is at the low end, including high volume production, too.
Most plastic processors would define 18 hours as a smaller to medium production run, much less one where you are only processing a gaylord of material.
Middle range production runs are typically a good custom extruder's sweet spot because of these cost advantages and the required set-up and changeover expertise. At the end of the day, a custom extruder builds his livelihood on quick-change production that can average under a day’s worth of operating time; that is the nature of the business.
Thus it is not difficult to see that for today’s lean manufacturing, batch order demands, and the need to meet shifts in market conditions for customers, this dynamic and skill set are ideal. In combination with “last touch,” the proposition becomes all the more compelling.
Those Finishing Touches
As for technology, this is where "Last Touch" comes into play -- welding, machining, milling, drilling, mitering, sealing, routing and heat forming. Even printing. Both inline and post-process fabrication, whether when punching angles or notches, bring extrusion to the next level, creating parts that to the uninformed eye most would consider "molded." To boot, there are a limited number of custom extruders in the United States that can bring all these skills to bear for customers, much less across a continental footprint.
Custom extruders can also make parts that are substantially longer than the molding process. And while in some cases a continuous profile is required, this constraint is not always the case, for there are instances where capped or sealed components (such as a capped tube) are better suited with a full-featured custom extruder for some of the similar cost reasons noted above.
Lastly, a comprehensive custom extruder ought to feature good machining capability, in which case they bring to market the ability to customize into a truly three-dimensional configuration extruded stock shapes - often of high performance engineering thermosets and thermoplastics. These materials include fiber-reinforced phenolics or epoxies, nylons, PEI (ULTEM), or PES, which are known to have some specialty properties good for tight tolerance machining.
Your Trusted Plastics Advisor
In the end, we've found that many customers or plastic component users are simply unaware of these capabilities within the paradigm of extrusion, and especially of custom extruders. As a result, we like to encourage them always to provide our engineers with a finished part drawing when confronting a component need, so that we can work with you to consider how best to approach any challenge. Pexco is eager to serve not only as your extruder of choice, but as your most trusted plastics advisor.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia with several manufacturing plants across the United States and Mexico, Pexco is a North American leader in the design and fabrication of specialty plastics products. It provides standard and custom products and components to manufacturers and end-users for a broad range of market applications, including the Aerospace, Medical, Filtration, Lighting, and other Industrial sectors. Pexco offers a full range of design, engineering and fabrication services. It operates six Class 7 & Class 8 medical clean rooms. Pexco meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2008, and holds ISO 14001, ISO 13485, 21 CFR 820, OHSAS 18001, GMP, AS9100C, ITAR and other registrations and/or certifications for its manufacturing operations. Pexco is your trusted plastics advisor for specialty plastic products and solutions. For more information, visit www.pexco.com or contact 770-777-8540.
Both inline and post-process fabrication, whether when punching angles or notches, bring extrusion to the next level.