Plastic Extrusion 101: Definition, Advantages, How it Works, Types, Applications

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Welcome to the world of plastic extrusion! In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the ins and outs of plastic extrusion, a versatile manufacturing process used to create a wide range of plastic products.

From its definition and advantages to its working process, types, and applications, we will cover it all. Whether you’re new to the field or seeking in-depth knowledge, this article will serve as your ultimate guide to understanding plastic extrusion and its role in various industries. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of plastic extrusion together!

What is plastic extrusion?

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Plastic extrusion is a vital process in the manufacturing industry. It’s a high-volume manufacturing method where raw plastic is melted and formed into a continuous profile. The process involves feeding plastic material pellets into an extruder. The material is then heated until it melts, turning into a liquefied form.

This melted plastic is forced through a die, shaping it into a pipeline, wire insulation, window frames, and even plastic sheets – all examples of extrusion products. After exiting the die, the plastic is cooled, solidifies, and retains the shape of the die, forming an extruded plastic product.

Advantages of plastic extrusion

The plastic extrusion process offers several compelling advantages that make it a preferred method for many manufacturers. These include:

High Efficiency: The extrusion process of plastics is a continuous operation, capable of producing long lengths of a product in a relatively short amount of time. This allows for high output rates, making plastic extrusion an extremely efficient manufacturing method.

Flexibility: Extrusion plastic processes can be used with a wide array of materials, including PVC, polyethylene, and more. Furthermore, it’s possible to create a broad spectrum of shapes and sizes, increasing the process’s flexibility.

Low Costs: Since plastic extrusion is a high-volume process, the production cost per unit is relatively low. This affordability makes it a popular choice for many manufacturers who seek to reduce costs without compromising on quality.

High Quality: The plastic extrusion process can produce products with a consistent cross-section, ensuring a high level of quality. In addition, the plastic extrusion molding process can maintain tight tolerances, creating products that meet stringent quality standards.

Co-extrusion Capability: With co-extrusion, manufacturers can extrude two or more different materials simultaneously. This capability allows the creation of complex products with varying properties within a single piece, enhancing product functionality.

At Worthy Hardware, we harness these benefits to offer clients high-quality, customized CNC machining parts, including CNC machining plastic, PVC, and polyethylene extrusion, among others.

Disadvantages of Plastic Extrusion

While plastic extrusion is an advantageous process for many applications, it’s also essential to consider its limitations:

Limited Complexity: Although plastic extrusion is highly versatile in producing varied cross-sectional profiles, it may not be suitable for parts with complex geometries or variable thickness. In comparison, techniques such as CNC machining or injection molding may offer more flexibility for complex designs.

Tooling Costs: Despite the low unit cost, the initial tooling costs for the extrusion process can be relatively high. This includes the cost of developing and manufacturing the die used in the extrusion process.

Lead Times: While plastic extrusion has high production rates, lead times can be extensive for new projects due to the time needed for die development and machine setup.

Material Limitations: Not all types of plastics can be extruded. Some materials may degrade or discolor at the high temperatures used in the extrusion process.

How Does Plastic Extrusion Work?

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The plastic extrusion process consists of several essential steps:

Raw Material Preparation: The process begins with raw plastic material, often in the form of small beads or pellets. These materials are carefully chosen based on the desired characteristics of the final product, whether it’s durability, flexibility, color, or resistance to heat and chemicals. At Worthy Hardware, we have an extensive range of materials like PVC, polyethylene, and many more for different applications.

Feeding the Extruder: The plastic pellets are fed into the extruder, a machine that applies heat and pressure to melt the plastic. It consists of a heated barrel equipped with a rotating screw. As the screw turns, it pushes the plastic pellets forward into the barrel.

Melting: As the plastic moves through the heated barrel of the extruder, it melts into a liquid form. The heat is meticulously controlled to prevent degradation of the plastic.

Shaping: The molten plastic is then forced through a shaping die at the end of the extruder. The die gives the plastic its shape, forming it into a continuous profile like tubes, rods, or sheets. It’s essential to have a well-designed die to ensure the desired plastic extrusion line.

Cooling and Cutting: Once the plastic exits the die, it needs to be cooled quickly to maintain its shape. This is often achieved through air or water cooling methods. Once cooled, the long plastic profile is cut into the desired lengths, providing the final extruded plastic products.

Types Of Plastic Extrusion Process

There are various types of plastic extrusion processes, each suited to specific applications. Here are the most common ones:


Blown Film Extrusion

This process is used for making plastic films, such as those used in packaging or bags. The extruded tube is inflated, then cooled and flattened before being wound onto rolls.


Sheet/Film Extrusion

This is used to make plastic sheets or films. The molten polymer is extruded through a flat die and then cooled on a three-roll stack system. These sheets are often used for packaging or thermoformed into products like disposable cups or containers.


Tubing Extrusion

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This method is used for producing plastic tubes. The molten plastic is extruded through a circular die, then cooled and cut to length.



As mentioned earlier, co-extrusion allows for the simultaneous extrusion of two or more different types of plastic. This is often used to create a product with different layers, each providing specific properties.


Overjacketing Extrusion

This process involves extruding a layer of plastic over a product like a wire or metal rod to provide insulation or other properties.


Compound or Two Shot Extrusion

This process combines two different types of plastic into one extruded piece. It’s often used in applications that require the benefits of multiple materials in a single product.


Profile Extrusion

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In profile extrusion, plastic is formed into complex geometrical shapes. This method is used for creating a variety of products such as window frames, tubing, pipes, and more.

Materials used for Plastic Extrusion

Different types of plastic materials can be used in the extrusion process, each with its unique properties and applications. Here are some commonly used ones:


Polyethylene (PE)

This is one of the most commonly used plastics in extrusion due to its excellent toughness and low cost. There are various types of polyethylene, including low-density PE (LDPE), high-density PE (HDPE), and linear low-density PE (LLDPE). Polyethylene is often used for extruding film, bags, and containers. You can find more about our polyethylene capabilities here.


Polypropylene (PP)

Known for its high melting point and resistance to chemicals, PP is widely used in food packaging, automotive parts, and textiles. More about our polypropylene machining services can be found here.


Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is used extensively in construction for pipe and profile extrusions due to its durability and cost-effectiveness. Worthy Hardware provides a range of PVC machining services that you can check out here.


Polystyrene (PS)

This material is often used in the extrusion of sheets for thermoforming applications, such as food service trays and packaging materials.


Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET is most commonly known for its use in food and beverage packaging due to its excellent moisture and gas barrier properties.


Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

ABS is a strong and flexible plastic popular in industries like automotive, electronics, and toys, due to its excellent impact resistance and durability.


Polycarbonate (PC)

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PC is known for its high impact resistance and clear transparency, making it an ideal choice for applications like safety glasses, greenhouses, and digital disks.


Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET is widely used in food and drink packaging due to its excellent water and moisture barrier properties.

Applications of Plastic Extrusion

Plastic extrusion has a wide range of applications, making it an indispensable process in various industries. Here are a few of the most common ones:



In the packaging industry, plastic extrusion plays an essential role. It’s used in the creation of various packaging materials, including heat-shrinkable film, food-grade plastic wrap, and moisture-resistant plastic bags. These materials provide the necessary protection and extend the shelf life of numerous products.


Pipes and Tubing

The process is widely used in the production of plastic pipes and tubing. These pipes and tubes come in different sizes and are used in various applications, from small medical tubes to large diameter pipes used in irrigation and sewage systems.


Window Profiles

Extrusion is an important process in the production of window profiles. These extruded profiles are durable, easy to install, and can withstand various weather conditions, making them an excellent choice for construction and home improvement projects.


Wire and Cable Coating

Plastic extrusion is also extensively used for wire and cable coating. The extruded plastic provides electrical insulation and protection against environmental factors, enhancing the longevity and performance of wires and cables.


Seals and Gaskets

Seals and gaskets produced through the extrusion process are used in many industries, including automotive and construction. These seals are resistant to high temperatures and various chemicals, ensuring the secure functioning of different systems.


Filaments for 3D Printing

With the rise of 3D printing technology, plastic extrusion has found a new application. Filaments used in 3D printers are typically made through the plastic extrusion process.


Sheet and Film Production

Plastic sheets and films used in many industries, including agriculture, construction, and electronics, are typically made using plastic extrusion. These products can be customized to meet specific thickness and transparency requirements.


Synthetic Fibers

The textile industry utilizes plastic extrusion in the production of synthetic fibers. These fibers are then used in the creation of various fabrics and textiles.

Difference Between Plastic Extrusion and Other Processes

Plastic Extrusion vs. Aluminum Extrusion

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Both plastic and aluminum extrusion processes involve forcing material through a die to create a continuous profile, but the main difference lies in the material and applications. Aluminum extrusion is used for a variety of products in industries like construction, automotive, and aerospace. On the other hand, plastic extrusion is more common in packaging, medical, and consumer goods industries.

One key advantage of aluminum extrusion is its strength and durability; aluminum profiles can handle more stress and weight compared to plastic profiles. However, plastic extrusion generally has a faster production rate and lower manufacturing costs.


Plastic Extrusion vs. Injection Molding

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Plastic extrusion and injection molding are two common methods of producing plastic parts, but they differ in several ways:

Process: Injection molding involves injecting molten plastic into a mold, where it cools and solidifies. In contrast, plastic extrusion involves pushing melted plastic through a die to create a continuous profile.

Volume and Speed: Injection molding is better suited for producing large quantities of complex, discrete parts quickly. Plastic extrusion, on the other hand, is perfect for creating long, continuous parts.

Cost: The initial setup cost for injection molding is higher due to the need for custom molds. However, once set up, the cost per part is relatively low. Plastic extrusion has a lower setup cost and is more cost-effective for smaller runs or simpler parts.

Types of Extruders in Plastic Extrusion Process

Extruders are the primary machines used to execute the plastic extrusion process. Here are the common types:

Single Screw Extruders: This is the most basic type of extruder, used in a variety of plastic extrusion processes. They operate with a single screw rotating inside a cylindrical barrel, melting and pushing the plastic material towards the die.

Twin Screw Extruders: Twin screw extruders use two intermeshing screws instead of one. This design can provide improved mixing and melting capabilities, which is especially beneficial for handling more complex plastic materials or additives.

Multi-Screw Extruders: For more complex or demanding applications, multi-screw extruders are sometimes used. These can provide superior control over the melting process, material mixing, and temperature regulation.

Ram Extruders: These are used for specific materials and applications, such as PTFE extrusion. In a ram extruder, the material is pushed by a ram or plunger instead of a screw.


In conclusion, plastic extrusion is an innovative and versatile process that caters to a vast range of industries. Its capacity to produce complex, high-quality products makes it an invaluable tool in today’s manufacturing landscape.

At Worthy Hardware, we are committed to leveraging these advantages to deliver superior solutions to our clients. If you’re interested in learning more about plastic extrusion or any other aspect of CNC machining, contact us today. We’re eager to support your next project with our professional, reliable services.

Frequently Asked Questions About Plastic Extrusion

Q: What is the plastic extrusion process?

A: Plastic extrusion is a manufacturing process in which raw plastic is melted and formed into a continuous profile. It’s commonly used to produce items such as pipes, tubing, window frames, and plastic sheets.


Q: What is plastic extrusion used for?

A: The plastic extrusion process is used in a wide variety of applications, including packaging, pipe and tubing manufacturing, wire and cable coating, synthetic fiber creation, and 3D printing filament production, among others.


Q: What is the strongest plastic for extrusion?

A: Different plastics have different strengths and other properties. For extrusion, common strong plastics include polyethylene, polycarbonate, and polypropylene, among others.


Q: Is plastic extrusion safe?

A: Yes, when executed correctly and with appropriate safety measures, the plastic extrusion process is safe.


Q: How is extrusion done?

A: In the extrusion process, plastic pellets are first loaded into a hopper. They are then conveyed to a heated barrel where they are melted. This molten plastic is then forced through a die, taking on its shape and emerging as a newly extruded product.