Bixby adds third dimension to plastic sheet extrusions

  • Possibility to add 3D surface textures onto cast extruded sheet
  • Process employs 3D profiles to make deep embosses in any direction
  • Even deep patterns such as honeycombs are possible

Cast plastic extrusions are two-dimensional flat sheets or films. Different surfaces can be imparted on them using the embossing process. Embossing transfers a surface texture of a roll or other substrate onto the sheet or film being extruded from a molten plastic. This is adequate when the surface texture is shallow, and the need only is to create textures such as gloss, matte, sand blast, leather, textile, or carbon fiber, for example. However, embossing can only go so deep into a sheet before it becomes ineffective or disrupts the extrusion process.

Even reinforcing geometries can be imparted onto the surface

The company Bixby International has developed a technology that employs 3D profiles to make deep embosses in the transverse or any other direction across a cast extruded plastic sheet or roll product. For example, it allows the company to put in-line or cross-directional profiles in their extruded sheet. It also permits for a very wide reinforcing geometry or a geometric pattern for other functionality to be imparted onto the surface across the full web. It even enables the company to make deep patterns such as honeycombs, or extrude around voids in plastic sheets and films.

honeycomb structure

Even deep patterns such as honeycombs are possible (Source: Bixby International)

Technology turns sheet into functional part without the need for post processing

The technology increases the product design freedom of designers and engineers by giving them more choices of materials and geometries to work with in the cast plastic extrusion process. With this process, the company can take a roll that’s inherently a flat construction or sheet, and turn it into a functionally designed part without the need for post processing, or forming or welding. Trying to accomplish this the traditional way requires additional heat history during the post-processing phase of production, which creates weakness in the plastic construction.

Without this technology, if ribs are wanted in a roll, they need to be profile extruded and then welded in place on the master roll, which can be difficult, and time consuming. And, if the ribs are larger or off-axis, the process to profile extrude or injection mold, and then weld them is likely to be even more problematic. To make matters worse, the post processing necessary can produce quality issues such as delaminations and product failures.

Technology bridges the gap between sheet extrusion and injection molding

On the other hand, the ability to take a thin or thicker cast extruded sheet and add 3D surface textures onto it in-line enhances its design and performance functionality. With it, the company can create mechanically functional constructions that product designers often will only consider via the injection molding or thermoforming processes. Moreover, three-dimensionally extruded parts can have their stiffness and property characteristics “tuned” for specific applications, or permit air to pass through, or a vacuum to be drawn through them.

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