These days, you’ve got to do a lot of things to stay competitive if you’re a medium-sized custom extrusion house. That means offering more in the way of flexibility to distinguish yourself from the huge processing concerns, and more in the way of up-front services and processing innovation to keep the low-cost competitors at bay.
In profile extrusion, Extrudex is a good case in point. From a 90,000 ft² plant in Painesville, Ohio, this privately held, 32-year-old custom processor (extrudex.net) could provide a playbook for mid-size processors desperate for a niche: Offer up-front design and development services. Be flexible enough to process lots of different materials. Be agile enough to deal with short orders. And provide post-processing services as well.
Extrudex’s major markets include aerospace, military, point-of-purchase displays, toys, lawn/garden, and consumer products. Recently, it delved into the construction market with a novel profile system for round-top windows.
“We are not in the commodity business—we don’t want to be,” remarks Tod Oliva, Extrudex president. “You have to do unique things in today’s environment. The key is offering high-quality at a competitive cost. We design innovative tooling, offer quick turnarounds, take on short-run jobs, run complex parts and we try to offer services that distinguish Extrudex from competitors.”
One of the firm’s specialties is heat welding. Five of Extrudex’s 50 employees are actually dedicated to it. A big application is welding gaskets made of thermoplastic vulcanizate, like Santoprene, or flexible PVC , which are used for mirrors, as well as bus, train and military vehicle window systems. Notes Oliva, “Our design team worked with our customers to produce many high quality/low cost products, several in critical military applications.”
Oliva says Extrudex is one of the few processors with such an operation. The weld department is also capable of integrating formed corners into welded gaskets and seals as well as notched and punched profiles. Extrudex also performs a variety of other post-extrusion operations that include notching, punching, bending, adhesive applications forming, splicing, chamfering, and even final assembly/pack-out. “Each of our 19 extrusion lines is supported by some type of secondary operation,” Oliva states.
The company also specializes in thick-wall PC tubing for mining and other heavy-duty applications. Clear and opaque tubes range up to 4.5-in. OD with wall thicknesses up to 0.5 in. Extrudex dedicates one of its lines to that business. Overall, it extrudes profiles up to 16 in.-wide and tubing (flexible and rigid) up to 6 in. diam. Depending on the size of the tube, it can coil up to 500 ft per roll.
Extrudex dedicates another line to run a wide range of rollers for the lawn-care industry. These are mostly extruded out of HDPE and LDPE in diameters ranging from 2 in. to 4-in. The rollers can be finished with a variety of beveled edges as required. Post-extrusion, Extrudex can drill multiple cup holes for specialty rollers as well as insert bushings (both plastic and steel) as specified. Extrudex offers both black and natural rollers.
Extrudex’s other core competencies include dual-durometer extrusion, and two- and three-layer coextrusion. The processor almost no material processing limitations. It has run virtually all commodity materials, including vinyl, PET and PETG, virtually all polyolefins and styrenics, and engineering materials like ABS, acrylic, Noryl (Sabic’s blend of polyphenylene oxide and PS) as well as TPE and TPV. Profiles are extruded in many colors.
NOVEL WINDOW PROFILE
Recently, Extrudex expanded into captive processing with a proprietary line of products it calls the FleX-J Channel, a dual-durometer profile (97 and 80 Shore A flexible PVC) for round-top windows. “We got into this business when residential construction was near its bottom,” says Oliva. “But we are bullish on the prospects for housing in the future and believe what we have to offer is a truly unique, high-quality product.”
The profile is extruded in 12-ft, 6-in. lengths and is notched—in line—every 6 in. Extrudex automated the process by putting two Conair cutters in a unique back-to-back configuration. One cutter does the notching, the other cuts to length. The FleX-J lines are vacuum-sized with tanks also furnished by Conair.