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Basics of Extrusion

• Extrusion is a continuous process

•To pump molten plastic through the die, it is necessary to develop pressure in
the melt.
•Thus the function of extruder is to melt the plastic and pump the plastic-
must be able to generate pressure which can be as high as 2000 psi
• Extruders are commonly sized according to two numbers
- The inside diameter of the barrel ; 1”, 1 ½”…………6”
- Length of the extruder or L/D ratio; 20/1, 24/1, 28/1 being most

• Power requirement for electric motor – 1 hp per 5 to 10 lbs/hr of


• .
• Some extruders even exceed 40:1 L/D for special purposes like double
venting, compounding, or high-speed processing.
• What benefits does the additional length

• What limits the length of the screw?

• What happen if screw is too long?

• The flow rate is almost directly proportional to the RPM (screw
speed). If RPM doubles, the flow rate doubles.- common screw
speeds, 20 to 200 RPM

• Helical channel for flow

•Very small clearance between the screw flight and barrel
•Depth of flow channel is smaller compared to screw diameter
•Depth may vary along the channel
•The thread of the screw is called a flight – the distance from one flight to
next -pitch
Feed section or solid conveying zone
• The deepest channel
•Solid pellets come into contact with the barrel wall –heat of friction starts
to melt the pellets
Metering section
• Shallowest channel depth
•Melting is completed
•The melt is homogenized
•The pressure profile is built up

• A square pitch screw has a pitch = screw diameter
This result in helical angel 17.7° - the most common design

•Channel depth
This varies from the feed section through the metering section- 3/8” to

•L/D ratio

• The die in its simplest form is just a flow channel within a piece of
• It can circular channel, a slit or something much more complex.
• Types of die:
• The proper design of an extrusion die is extremely important to achieve the
desired shape and accurate dimensions of the extruded product.

• The function of an extrusion die is to shape the molten plastic exiting an

extruder into the desired cross section depending on the product being made.

• A schematic of a common die, called a sheet die, is shown to illustrate this


•An ideal die will:

-Balance the melt flow by providing more uniform exit velocity across the
entire die exit
-Achieve the flow balance with a minimal pressure drop
-Streamline the flow to avoid abrupt changes in the flow passage that may
cause stagnation area – lead to thermal degradation of plastic melts.

• The design of extrusion dies is complicated by two unique material

• The shear thinning causes the volumetric flow to be very sensitive to
slight changes in die geometry.

• For example, the flow for a typical polymer melt through a slit will vary
with the cubic thickness of the gap

• Thus, a small change in the die gap along the contour of the die exit may
cause considerable change of the melt flow.

• The term ‘‘die swell’’ refers to the enlargement in the direction orthogonal
to the flow direction.
• Swelling after exiting the die lip is due to two distinct phenomena:
-Velocity relaxation (unification) of the melt flow.
- Viscoelastic relaxation of the strained polymer molecules.

• Velocity relaxation occurs because the melt is no longer under shear from
the no-slip walls of the extrusion die.

• The melt assumes a uniform bulk velocity that causes the high-speed
areas to slow down and the areas previously retarded from the wall to
increase their speed - The net result is enlarging (swelling) of the melt
• The swelling due to viscoelastic memory is a characteristic of polymeric
fluids and occurs because the polymer molecules are stretched in the flow
direction while passing through the high-shear area before the die exit.

• On exiting, the molecules recoil and shorten in the flow direction.

• The amount of viscoelastic swelling is a combination of the material

properties of the polymer as well as process conditions such as melt
temperature, shear rate, and residence time under high shear, especially near
the die exit.
• The sheet dies typically employ 4 features to control flow to die lip:
i. Choker bar – adjustable along the width of the die, tune the flow
balance across the width of the die.
ii. Lower lip-set the thickness of the sheet
iii. Flex lip – adjustable along the wide of the die, provide final tuning to
create uniform flow across the die.
iv. Die bolts – keep the upper and lower lip together – clam shelling/die
•This type of die is typically made for a specific type of polymer to account
for the shear thinning behavior of that polymer.

•The flow distribution in the die will change with melt viscosity

•Make flow adjustment – through the design

•New innovation – automatic flow adjustment made with design like auto flex
sheet- the die lip gap at the flex lip is automatically adjusted by changing
the length of the flex lip adjustment bolt.

• Blown film dies are the most common

way of making commercial films.

• Because the blown film is so thin, weld

lines are not tolerated, and the melt is
typically introduced at the bottom of a
spiral mandrel through a ring-shaped
distribution system.

• A series of spiral channels, cut into the

mandrel-like multiple threads, smear the
melt as it flows toward the die exit. This
mixing action ensures that the melt
is homogenous on exiting the die.

This quenching moment occurs at the frost

line of the bubble. The melt quenching
occurs with a combination of external
cooling air and internal bubble cooling air, as
shown in Figure.