With nearly fifty years of experience, Formtech has been able to develop many innovative capabilities with plastic extrusions. These capabilities allow us to service manufacturers and distributors in several industries. Today, we highlight Formtech’s ability to extrude multiple materials in one single plastic extrusion. While sometimes referred to as “multiple material extrusion”, this process can have many names. Some commonly used names include:
- “Multiple material extrusion”: this refers to any number of materials extruded into one single profile. Formtech typically refers to this process as “multiple material extrusion”, unless we are discussing a specific number (2, 3,or 4) of materials in the product.
- “Co-extrusion”: this typically refers to two materials extruded into one product.
- “Tri-extrusion”: this typically refers to three materials extruded into one product.
- “Quad-extrusion”: this typically refers to four materials extruded into one product. This process is more uncommon than “co-extrusion” or “tri-extrusion”.
Multiple material extrusion has many advantages. A few advantages that we will discuss in this post include:
- Using one plastic extrusion to perform multiple functions
- Having multiple colors in a single plastic extrusion
- Replacing two separate and distinct products with one multiple material extrusion
- Possibility for cost benefits
Does your part need to multitask?
We know that you likely find yourself multitasking, but we understand that oftentimes, your products need to multitask, too! Multiple material extrusions can allow a single product to perform multiple functions. Commonly, a rigid material is extruded with a flexible material, such as rigid PVC extruded with flexible PVC. Here are some product examples:
- As in the picture below, rigid and flexible materials may allow for two different functions in one single plastic profile extrusion. In this case, the orange material is rigid and attaches to a handle. The white material is flexible and provides a squeegee function.
- A retail store price tag holder (also referred to as a ticket holder or data strip) can have a clear front to display a price to the customer, with a colored back to maintain a consistent shelf edge color. The product could also include a third material, such as flexible fins, to hold the paper price tag in place.
- Outdoor applications may require high performance materials such as wood plastic composites but also require a color matched capstock for color consistency on a building structure. In this case, we extrude a weatherable capstock onto a WPC extrusion to provide both the function and look required in one extrusion.
Do you have a project that requires two or more individual plastic parts?
Perhaps, you are assembling two parts into one product. Why not eliminate the use of two parts, and replace those two parts with one single profile extrusion? Oftentimes, multiple material extrusions can achieve this goal. There are many benefits of this potential, such as:
- A single plastic extrusion can eliminate the need for assembly labor, and the high cost of it!
- If products need packaged, this can also eliminate the need for special packing or kitting.
- One extrusion can reduce your SKU’s (compared to two parts), thus meaning that you can order and inventory fewer products.
- The potential of assembled products separating, or coming apart from one another, is eliminated when the product is manufactured as one part
Is a portion of your colored part not visible in the end application?
Bright and bold colors stand out, but so do the costs associated with custom color concentrates or pre-colored plastic raw materials. By using the multiple material extrusion process, Formtech can color only portions of your profile. This option can reduce cost, and still provide the appearance you desire.
For instance, think of the above example of a retail store price tag holder. If the entire product is the color of the store shelf, the customer cannot see the price tag through a clear ticket window. If the price tag is adhered to the extrusion, it can fall off due to traffic in the store. On the other hand, if the entire profile is clear, it may not look quite as nice, since the shelf shows through the product instead of being covered. As a result, by extruding a clear window for the price tag, and a colored back to match the shelf, the retail environment see two benefits:
- The price tag is safely inside the extrusion, where it will not fall off, and can be seen by customers
- The colored back matches the shelf and provides a clean appearance.
Capstocking provides another option for coloring only a portion of your profile. In the picture below, a black rigid capstock was added to the interior of the profile, which is visible through window glass in the product’s application. A white rigid capstock is extruded on the exterior of the product to match the entry door where this extrusion is used. These capstocks enhance the appearance of the part in its application!
How does this process affect the cost?
In some cases, multiple material extrusions can provide cost advantages over alternative products. For instance, assume your product requires a high performance material for its application. In the picture below, polycarbonate material is used. However, polycarbonate can be more expensive than other plastic materials.
As a result, there are two options for this product:
- Extrude the entire profile in polycarbonate.
- Extrude a strip of polycarbonate onto a less expensive, PVC profile.
Because only a portion of the product required the properties of the polycarbonate material, we could reduce cost by extruding the remainder of the profile in PVC. This provided both the functionality and the cost needed!
If cost is a primary concern, let us know! We can offer alternatives or options that may reduce the overall cost of your profile, while maintaining the function.
Unsure if multiple material extrusion is the answer?
No problem – we are here to help! Let’s discuss your profile, how it functions, and what is most important for your project. You don’t have to know if multiple extrusion is the answer for your project. Contact us to learn more!