Flexible Extrusion Confusion

Flexible extrusions come in two main categories: thermosets, like synthetic rubber, and thermoplastics, like flexible PVC. In appearance, synthetic rubber and flexible PVC extrusions look very similar, and it is not uncommon for customers to confuse the two. However, their properties are very different, so it is important to consider this, before making your material selection.

Synthetic rubber extrusion benefits

EPDM, SBR and nitrile are all types of synthetic rubber that can be extruded. As they are thermosets, rubber extrusions cannot be softened on heating or re-chipped and extruded to produce new products, so are not very environmentally friendly.

The main advantage of synthetic rubbers is their performance in cold temperatures; they remain soft at very low temperatures. Synthetic rubber extrusions can be produced in different densities from very soft to harder grades, depending on the application.

Flexible PVC extrusion benefits

Like synthetic rubber, flexible PVC extrusions are also available in a range of densities, but have a far superior environmental performance. Flexible PVC is classed as a thermoplastic, which are recyclable, so at the end of their working life, extrusions made from flexible PVC can be re-ground to produce new plastic products.

Extruding flexible PVC is a much simpler process than rubber as no vulcanising is required, which means flexible PVC profiles are often more cost-effective.

Flexible PVC is widely used for plastic profile extrusions because of its resistance to abrasion and ability to insulate. Some of the applications include medical tubing, weather strips, cushioning devices, handrails and impact resistant bumpers.

Where rubber extrusions are generally black, flexible PVC can be extruded in a wide range of colours, including clear. PVC also comes in different grades, for instance, there are grades of PVC with nitrile in them that achieve a more rubbery look and feel.

High performance PVC extrusions

For the ultimate high performance flexible extrusion customers often select a TPE material, for example, TPE SBS, TPE SEBS and TPV. Although they are more costly than other flexible plastics (comparable in cost to synthetic rubber) TPE extrusions are easier to extrude, allowing customers to economise on production by reducing lead times.

If you would like to discuss your flexible plastic extrusion requirements, call our technical sales team on +44 (0)1342 312 714 or complete our enquiry form.

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