Die forming (plastics)
A die in polymer processing is a metal restrictor or channel capable of providing a constant cross sectional profile to a stream of liquid polymer. This allows for continuous processing of shapes such as sheets, films, pipes, rods, and other more complex profiles. This is a continuous process, allowing for constant production (assuming constant supply of polymer melt), as opposed to a sequential (non-constant) process such as injection molding.
Die forming typically occurs immediately after polymer melt has exited an extruder. The most basic process involves guiding the stream of molten polymer under pressure through a die, which three distinct regions: manifold, approach, and lip. The 'manifold' serves to channel the polymer melt from its initial extrusion point to a near-net-shape of the final product. The 'approach' region further guides the melt into the final shape, and begins to correct for any non-uniform flow. Finally, the 'lip' forms the melt into the final desired cross section and compensates for any remaining flow asymmetry. After exiting the lip of the die, the polymer melt will undergo die swell before curing. Die swell is an expansion of the melt as the pressure is released, and is dependent on polymer chemistry and die design. After curing, the solid, continuous part is drawn onto a take-up roller or cut into transportable lengths, depending on the type of part. This process may vary significantly depending on the type of die and extrusion process.
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