When Is A Custom UHMW Extrusion Feasible?

Redwood Plastics regularly receives inquiries regarding custom UHMW polyethylene extrusions. In some cases, an extrusion is the most feasible choice, but in many cases an extrusion may not fit the budgetary requirements, especially for smaller runs. One often overlooked factor is that you need to consider tooling costs. Tooling can reach several thousands of dollars and in addition, our pricing has to factor in several hundred feet of wasted material as we calibrate the tooling. Tooling can also take 5-6 weeks with the extrusion run adding about 2 weeks onto that. Factor in shipping and you could be looking at 7-8 weeks to get your first run. There are also limits on extrusions, for example, we get many requests for very thin thicknesses of perhaps 1/16″ (almost like a ‘tape’) and this poses a few problems. First of all, we cannot have a tool done for materials so thing but even if we could, UHMW is not a dimensionally stable material and both expands and contracts due to heat and cold. It’s very possible that you would be delivered an extrusion that is out of tolerances, simply because of the ambient temperature.

A custom extrusion is a good idea; however, if you will have ongoing need for a certain profile and those needs are several thousand feet at a time. Then the tooling charge and run quantities may be a fit. If a custom extrusion is not a fit what are your options? Firstly, many standard profiles exist that could be adapted by machining. For example, 3″ x 3″ UHMW angle could be machined down to 2.6″ x 2.6″ if that were needed. Another option is having us advise on the closest standard profile to what you’re looking for and see if your application may be adapted for that profile (minimum order runs would still apply on standard extrusion, usually a few hundred feet). Secondly, if you do not have very tight tolerances and are looking for strip we may be able to manufacture that out of standard 4′ x 10′ UHMW sheets for an economical cost. We do this often machining custom U-Channels.

In conclusion, UHMW extrusions can provide an economical price per-foot cost for large, ongoing runs of material. However, due to tooling costs and minimum orders it may not fit many budgets. But that does not mean a solution cannot be found, simply that you may need to be creative in either adapting your design around existing “standard” profiles that are available or going the route of machining out of sheet stock. We would be glad to give you honest advice on any potential project you may have, so feel free to contact us today.

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