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Custom Plastic Extrusion Tolerances – Balance Between Cost and Tolerances

On June 6, 2017 | by Formtech | in Blog, Featured News, How Can We Help?, Uncategorized

Why are tolerances on a custom plastic extrusion worthy of discussion? Let’s explore this topic further in this week’s blog.

Custom extruded profile being inspected on optical comparator

     Optical Comparator in use at Formtech

Certainly, tolerances on plastic extrusions impact fit and function, and contribute to overall performance of the plastic part. But, at what cost? Technology has progressed in plastic extrusion equipment, extrusion tooling, thermoplastic materials and even methods of measurement. There are, however, limitations to tolerances on the product before the cost of the custom extrusion is impacted. Even with advancements in extrusion technology, tolerances that are extremely tight are one of the leading contributing factors in increased costs. In the design of a system that includes custom plastic extrusion, it is a best practice to consider which areas of the profile need to be maintained as critical, and how tightly they need to be held from a tolerance perspective based on the attended use. When a custom plastic profile extrusion company is dealing with extremely tight tolerances, we are forced to look at available options to control the cooling and sizing of the profile. Some options are listed below:

  • Reducing output rate for increased control over the extrusion cooling process
  • Additional vacuum calibration to keep the extruded plastic profile, at an increased overall tool cost
  • More expensive compounds to allow better control over the plastic extrusion

All the above options can improve tolerance control, but they do increase the cost of the end product. There is definitely a balance between tolerances and economics when it comes to custom profile extrusion. The extrusion must perform for the intended use, but design for manufacture and making sure tolerance limitations are reviewed during the design of the plastic profile as part of the overall system can save you money on the finished extruded plastic part(s). The table below outlines typical tolerances on profile extrusions in a variety of raw materials including Rigid PVC (uPVC), Polystyrene, ABS, Polycarbonate, Polyethylene Polypropylene and Flexible, or plasticized PVC. This table is based on industry experience, and can be used as a guide during the design process.

Custom Plastic Extrusion Tolerance Guide

7.001" to 10.000"0.093"0.125"0.125"0.125"0.150"0.150"
Rigid PVCPolystyreneABS/
PolypropyleneFlexible PVCPolyethylene
Wall Thickness (+-)8%8%8%8%10%10%
Angles (+-)2 Degrees2 Degrees3 Degrees3 Degrees5 Degrees5 Degrees
Profile Dimensions (+-)
To .125"0.007"0.007"0.010"0.010"0.010"0.012"
0.126" to 0.500"0.010"0.012"0.020"0.015"0.015"0.025"
0.501" to 1.000"0.015"0.017"0.025"0.020"0.020"0.030"
1.001" to 1.500"0.020"0.025"0.027"0.027"0.030"0.035"
1.501" to 2.000"0.025"0.030"0.035"0.035"0.035"0.040"
2.001" to 3.000"0.030"0.035"0.037"0.037"0.040"0.045"
3.001"to 4.000"0.045"0.050"0.050"0.050"0.065"0.065"
4.001 to 5.000"0.060"0.065"0.065"0.065"0.093"0.093"
5.001 to 7.000"0.075"0.093"0.093"0.093"0.125"0.125"
Tolerance table is for reference purposes based on typical custom plastic extrusion products. Contact Formtech to discuss specific profile design and resulting tolerances.

In addition to tolerances required for function, there are other important factors in making your custom plastic extrusion work well for you in the end application. Experienced Formtech technical sales and engineering staff are ready to help make your plastic extrusion project a success. They will ask several questions to make sure the extrusion meets your needs. The questions center around these functional areas:

  • What are the dimensions of the part, and which dimensions are critical? What type of tolerance is required to insure function of the product? We will need a drawing of your profile to quote from, and CAD formats (DXF, DWG, etc.) are preferred to allow more rapid response to your needs.

    Red custom extruded profile by Formtech

    Custom color for Plastic Extrusions by Formtech

  • What are your material requirements for function?  Have you already identified specific material that you would like Formtech to use for the extrusion?  What physical properties are most important for function in the application?
  • What color(s) are needed for your profile(s)?  Does your plastic extruded profile need to match another part?
  • Is your product going to be used in an indoor or outdoor environment?  What temperature range will the plastic extrusion be subjected to during use?
  • To the extent it can be shared, how is the product used, and in what application? Are there mating parts the plastic extrusion will be used with? If this is the case, can mating parts be supplied to be used during our extrusion process as part of our quality checks, to insure fit and function before the finished plastic extrusion is packaged for shipment?
  • Will the plastic extrusion require additional fabrication? Does it require adhesive or magnetic tape application? If the extrusion is exposed, does it require embossing, or texturing? Formtech offers a wide variety of value added services which can help enhance appearance and improve functionality of extruded plastic profile manufactured at both our Athens, GA and Fairview, PA production facilities.
  • What finished lengths and tolerances are required?
  • Do you have special packaging needs?
  • Information about volume expectations is important for both tooling development costs and pricing. What is the estimated annual footage or pieces, and how much would be released for each shipment?

After answering these questions, Formtech will be able to make recommendations from a design for manufacture standpoint to insure you are pleased with the parts received.

Formtech Enterprises has been making custom profile extrusions since 1970, and we service the building & construction industry extensively. We also service the electrical and electronics markets, merchandising (point of purchase), packaging, commercial refrigeration, office furniture and carpet/mat industries with a wide variety of custom and proprietary extruded profiles. Give us a call at 614-531-9954 or email at for more information or a quotation.



Happy Maintenance Technician Day!

On May 24, 2017 | by Formtech | in Blog, Uncategorized, What's New

May 24 is known as Aviation Maintenance Technician Day, which is a holiday to celebrate those in maintenance professions in the aviation field.

Charles Edward Taylor worked for Orville and Wilbur Wright in the early 1900s, when the Wrights were experimenting with human flight.  Taylor, previously a machinist, built a 12 horsepower engine that allowed the Wrights to make human flight possible!  After the first flight, Taylor continued to work with the Wright brothers, designing aircraft engines, and eventually becoming the airport manager of the first ever airport, which was established by the Wright brothers.  Later in his career, Taylor helped another young pilot, Cal Rodgers, complete the first flight across the United States in less than 30 days.

At Formtech, our specialty is manufacturing custom plastic extruded profiles, not improving flight.  But, we still would like to take the opportunity to honor our own maintenance technicians.  These individuals have responsibility for ensuring that our manufacturing equipment is in safe and operable condition.  We appreciate the efforts of our team, who sometimes receive late night calls if there is an issue, such as an equipment malfunction or power outage, that affects our equipment.  Their knowledge, skills, flexibility, and willingness to help are critical to the success of our production teams.extrusion maintenance

We would also like to introduce one of the newer members of our team, Sam Whitmer, who is the Maintenance Technician for our Fairview, Pennsylvania plant.  Sam joined the Formtech Enterprises in late 2016, and brought over 12 years of experience in various maintenance positions with him.  Sam’s experience includes electrical and mechanical maintenance, welding, fabricating, plumbing and building maintenance, preventative maintenance, and more.  We’re excited to have Sam as part of the Formtech team!

Thank you to all those who ensure that Formtech’s equipment and buildings are maintained properly and Happy Maintenance Technician Day – Aviation or otherwise! – to all maintenance technicians!  We appreciate all that you do!

Happy Mother’s Day!

On May 12, 2017 | by Formtech | in Blog, Featured News, Uncategorized

employee mom and kids

Sandi, one of our Employee Moms, with her kids


Mother’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all the mothers in our lives, whether it be our own, our wives, or those who have filled that role in our lives.  They make us laugh, smile, and learn. Here at Formtech, we took a moment to think of those in our lives who we celebrate on Mother’s Day and asked our team:

“What’s the most ‘mom’ thing your mom or wife has ever done?”

Threats of Love

“When I was in fourth grade I was doing terribly in school.  My mom called me at home while she was at work and told me Children Services had called her and was going to take me away if I didn’t start doing my homework.  After that I ALWAYS did my homework.“  –Sandi, now a successful accountant thanks to her mom


True Love

“The most ‘mom thing’ my mother has done is always educating me with her wise words of wisdom, teaching me that a mother’s love is the closest thing you can get here on Earth to God’s love, that no matter what you’ve done what you’re going through or where you’re at, your mother will always be there for you to shelter you from whatever storms you are in and to love you with unconditional love!” –Randall


Everything Is Nana’s

“My wife loves her grandkids. They call her Nana. Our daughter’s three boys love to come to ‘Nana’s’ house. Not our house, Nana’s house. Furthermore, I get kicked out of my bed, or as they call it ‘Nana’s’ bed when they spend the night. They tell me I should sleep in ‘my’ bed, in the other room. I think she put them up to that!“  –Herb


Sweet As Bean Soup

“I had a friend over one time and my Mom asked if he wanted to stay for dinner. I didn’t know what we were having and I asked him if there was anything he didn’t like and he said not really. We sat down to dinner and my mom had made bean soup. While eating I looked over and my friend was eating VERY slowly and I asked him what was wrong. He said quietly that he hated bean soup and that it was one of the few things he did not like. My mom heard him and got up without saying a word and fixed him something else to eat without any hesitation.” –Craig


Just Checking In…Again

“The most “mom thing” my wife has ever done to our 3 year-old girl is calling to check on her a million times when she is away and I am left with daddy duties! Recently I took my 3 year-old on a 3 day trip and my wife called non-stop making sure I was giving the correct amount of medicine, sunscreen, that I have fed her, given her a bath, brushed her teeth, the clip on the car seat was at her chest and not too low, and anything else you could possibly think of. So kudos to my wife that deserves the Mom-of-the-Year-Award!” –Travis


Led By Example

“My Mom passed away a little over 6 years ago.  Special days like Mother’s Day are just another reminder about how special she was to me, my Dad, my brother/sister, and her 3 grandkids.  My mom fought COPD and emphysema for the last 10 years of her life.  She never once complained or said ‘why me?’ when her quality of life declined every day she was still with us.  She just enjoyed the time she was here and cherished every moment she could spend with us.  Mom has taught me to enjoy my time that I spend away from work and enjoy every moment I spend with family and friends because they aren’t going to last forever.  Mom also taught me to make the best out of any bad situation.  Mom wasn’t able to work for the last years of her life, but in her younger years she was one of the hardest, most dedicated workers I’d ever been around.  I still try and make her proud and strive to do the best I can in every aspect of life, and grow everyday as a Father, a husband, and as a leader for Formtech Enterprises.” –Clint


Protective Mama Bear

“I had a horrible English teacher in middle school who swore I plagiarized a made up poem when I didn’t. She called my mom and my mom came into the school. She gave that teacher a ‘talking to’ and that teacher didn’t talk to me for the rest of the school year. That was in October. To this day, I’m not sure what she told that teacher.” –Aleisha


Little Things Are Big Things

“There isn’t just one moment that stands out to me of where my mom was being a mom. I just remember she was constantly doing mom things every day for me and my brother. Whether that was washing our clothes, fixing meals, or just being there for us during the hard times of life, my mom was always being a mom. I am thankful for her and love her for all that she has done for us and because there are a lot of kids out there that don’t have the kind of mom I have. If you’re blessed to have a mother like mine then you should say thanks not just on Mother’s Day but every day.” –Bradley


To all the mothers being celebrated by our Formtech family, we wish you and yours the happiest of Mother’s Days!


Cool Ways to Incorporate PVC into Your Home!

On May 1, 2017 | by Formtech | in Blog, Featured News, Uncategorized

We are always looking for and hearing about new ways that plastic extrusions can be used.  From commercial refrigeration bumpers to seawalls, plastic extruded profiles can be found in many places that you look.  Last week, Bill Wood of Plastics News talked about plastic products being used more in military products and medical products in his article, “Plastics will be Part of Solutions in the Future“.

You may have also seen plastic products used in your home.  Window lineals, deck boards, garage door seals, fencing posts, and siding pieces are all examples of extruded plastic profiles that you may see on an everyday basis.  Some products, such as PVC pipe, may also be used in your home for plumbing applications.  Have you ever thought, though, how PVC pipe can be used for applications other than in plumbing?

Check out Why Everyone is Grabbing PVC Pipes for Their Home Décor to see how storage, décor, fun, and more can all be made possible using PVC pipe!


The Future of Plastics

On April 27, 2017 | by Formtech | in Blog, Featured News, Uncategorized

When we think about the future, we often talk about what will happen for the remainder of the year, next year, or maybe in the next three to five years.  But have you ever taken time to think about what the world will be like in the next seventy five years?

Bill Wood of Plastics News gave his thoughts about how plastic materials will be used seventy five years from now.  Check out his thoughts in his recent article “Plastics Will be Part of Solutions in the Future” published in the April 24, 2017 Plastics News edition.

How do you think plastics will be used seventy five years from now?