4 Benefits of Co-Extrusion with Foam Products

by Bruce Hayward, President of Commodore Technology

Do you have a need for a film cap layer on a foam product? Do you want to introduce a new foam sheet that is decorative or printable. If so,you might want to explore the co-extrusion process for your foam sheet.

Co-extrusion is the process of simultaneously producing a foam sheet while adding a film layer to the top, bottom or both top and bottom of a sheet through a multi-layered extrusion die to create a single sheet in a one operation. The resulting sheet has properties that can provide protection, printability or aesthetics needed for new products.

Coextrusion line

Why is this so innovative? Well let's talk about what goes into the process without a co-extrusion die. In a traditional process the foam sheet is first produced by a foam extruder. Next, a secondary operation is required to either coat or laminate the foam sheet using separate equipment to provide the desired cap layer. This requires additional equipment, space and personnel to achieve the same results. A co-extruded foam sheet can be produced with polystyrene, polyethylene, or polypropylene which are most commonly used for food packaging, medical, automotive and building industries. These materials allow for the properties to be adjusted by varying the raw materials and operating conditions thus giving them a wide range of uses. Thinking about co-extrusion? Here are four very good reasons that you might want to consider the investment.

  • Cost: Co-extrusion removes the need for a lamination or coating equipment. The coating extruder supplies material straight onto the foam in the die, without secondary operations. Because there is less equipment, fewer operators are required to produce the same product simplifying the configuration and freeing the operators up for other uses in the plant.
  • Productivity: With the improved efficiencies and simplified production line there is less equipment to maintain and reduced downtime from unexpected breakdowns. Also, you will notice less set up time is needed for production by removing the laminator from this process.
  • Quality: Quality is always a primary concern when producing sheet or products. Only having to manage one process rather than multiple processes and materials allows greater control over the quality of your products.
  • Sustainability: During the co-extrusion process less energy is used because of the streamlined process, compared to additional downstream machines. Using this process, a thinner cap layer is maintained versus that of lamination or coating. Additionally, post-consumer material can be used as, it is encapsulated by film layers on the top and bottom. Due to the condensed equipment layout less floor space is required as well as less storage space for lamination stock.
Labec labeled products

Co-extrusion is an ideal process to cost effectively produce foam sheet that has different physical and aesthetic characteristics throughout the finished sheet. Some applications include a film cap layer on foam plates and trays, decorative colors for top and bottom layers, cut resistance, and formed products that require a cap layer for protection, rigidity or anti-friction. The ability to customize the finished product while reducing labor and startup cost is what makes the co-extrusion process so appealing to manufacturers. Contact us to understand how we can provide a co-extrusion solution for your existing product line, or allow us to help you develop a new product line.