For the most part, basic principles of extrusion have not changed much. The material must be heated to a viscosity that can be pushed through a die, then cooled, then cut. And the process is still done with one or two screws and some other ancillary equipment.

But once you get past those basic principles, the industry is changing. Even though the general public’s view of plastic is bad, plastics are constantly being used in the most positive of ways. For example, plastics have been used over the past few years to combat the COVID pandemic; PPE, protective barriers, and fibers for masks were all made of plastic and helped to keep us alive. So even though we all see plastics as necessary, we still haven’t gotten past the evil image.

Looking Ahead to Bio-Sourced Plastics
Looking ahead, materials will change. Perception of plastics will probably become more positive as bio-based plastics become more prevalent. Rather than using fossil raw materials, bio-sourced plastics are either partially or fully made from biological resources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, wood, and food waste. They decompose faster and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Use of these renewable sources also makes polymers cheap enough to compete with petroleum-based plastics.

It’s important to note that the original materials, whether biomass or petroleum, are not the only contributors to environmental impact. The original molecules in either case take on a lot of changes in order to be extruded. Bio-sourced materials may or may not be biodegradable. And despite the reduction in product quality, the increased cost of recycling, and its energy needs, the public loves it.

Additives
Additives are what will advance most in the future. colorants and many other additives are already popular and will continue to be. Some additives lengthen the polymer chains and create properties that exceed their original values. Heat stabilizers and UV absorbers are predicted to increase. Compatibilizers also create improved properties but are very expensive. Very little of these additives is needed for the desired effect, but the public will need to want them for the market to increase.

In conclusion, while extrusion continues to change, much will stay the same. The Polymers Technology Center has knowledgeable and experienced engineers and technicians that can assist your company with its extrusion needs, now and in the future. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your specific needs.