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About Blown Film Extrusion

Posted by Thomas Zickell on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 @ 05:03 AM

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One of the most common methods of film manufacture is Blown Film (also referred to as the Tubular Film) Extrusion. The process involves extrusion of a plastic through a circular die, followed by "bubble-like" expansion. The principal advantages of manufacturing film by this process include the ability to:

  • Produce tubing (both flat and gussetted) in a single operation
  • Regulation of film width and thichness by control of the volume of air in the bubble, the output of the extruder and the speed of the haul-off
  • Eliminate end effects such as edge bead trim and non uniform temperature that can result from flat die film extrusion
  • Capability of biaxial orientation (allowing uniformity of mechanical properties)
  • Blown Film Extrusion can be used for the manufacture of co-extruded, multi-layer films for high barrier applications such as food packaging.

The Process


Plastic melt is extruded through an annular slit die, usually vertically, to form a thin walled tube. Air is introduced via a hole in the centre of the die to blow up the tube like a balloon. Mounted on top of the die, a high-speed air ring blows onto the hot film to cool it. The tube of film then continues upwards, continually cooling, until it passes through nip rolls where the tube is flattened to create what is known as a ' lay-flat' tube of film. This lay-flat or collapsed tube is then taken back down the extrusion ' tower' via more rollers. On higher output lines, the air inside the bubble is also exchanged. This is known as IBS (Internal Bubble Cooling).

The lay-flat film is then either kept as such or the edges of the lay-flat are slit off to produce two flat film sheets and wound up onto reels. If kept as lay-flat, the tube of film is made into bags by sealing across the width of film and cutting or perforating to make each bag. This is done either in line with the blown film process or at a later stage.

Typically, the expansion ratio between die and blown tube of film would be 1.5 to 4 times the die diameter. The drawdown between the melt wall thickness and the cooled film thickness occurs in both radial and longitudinal directions and is easily controlled by changing the volume of air inside the bubble and by altering the haul off speed. This gives blown film a better balance of properties than traditional cast or extruded film which is drawn down along the extrusion direction only. 
3 layer die head with air ring and internal bubble cooling Film bubble going into a collapsing frame
   
 Control panel graphic from an automated blown film line  Taking an edge trim from film web
   
 The layflat tube is separated into 2 single sheets  Blown Film Line In Action


Materials

Polyethylenes (HDPE, LDPE and LLDPE) are the most common resins in use, but a wide variety of other materials can be used as blends with these resins or as single layers in a multi-layer film structure. these include pp, pa, evoh. In some cases, these materials do not gel together, so a multi-layer film would delaminate. To overcome this, small layers of special adhesive resins are used in between. These are known as “tie layers”.

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Tags: blown film, plastic film, Polyethylene, Polypropylene, blown film extrusion, RELEASE FILMS, converting, multi-layer film