IR Technology in the Plastics Industry

IR heat in the plastics industry

Infrared heat is a vital component in many plastics processing methods; the unique properties of IR heat – targeted heat, quick heat-up and cool-down, precise temperature control – lend themselves to efficient plastic processing. Specific uses of IR for plastics processing include the following:

Plastics Welding - For plastic parts, Infrared Welding can be a beneficial replacement for certain traditional hot-plate and vibration welding applications. The use of a controlled IR light source (heater) with accurately regulated time and temperature in a precise location allows more accurate process control on plastic assemblies. Click for several real-world examples.

Shrinking of Foils – Plastic foils are a component of many laminate processes, part of everything from decorative trims to laminated glass. Infrared heat is an effective part of foil shrinking step in processing. Click for examples using Heraeus IR technology.

Hot Riveting – This technology is an effective means of joining components made of different plastic materials. Thermoforming and hot-melt processes used for column flush riveting, hemisphere riveting, flanging and other heat riveting joining methods are well served by the efficient and effective properties of infrared heat. Click for specific, real-world examples.

Other popular uses include:

Thermoforming - heating a sheet of plastic and forming it to a new size and shape.

Embossing - Application of texture to plastic by means of a cylinder; the cylinder makes an impression on the plastic surface to give a tactile feel to the surface.

Laminating - This process is usually done as web or converting; the process involves sandwiching multiple sheets of plastic together and sending them through nip rollers; the result is laminate. A pre-applied dry adhesive (hot melt glue etc.) is activated by infrared, bonding the layers.

Painting - Application of color or tint to the surface of plastics. Infrared heats the paint for proper adhesion to the surface.

Annealing - With injection molding of polycarbonate, a tremendous amount of stress is built up in the plastic. Infrared is used in a reheating process called annealing; this step removes much of the stress form the polycarbonate, resulting in a stronger and more homogeneous product. Plastic water coolers and automobile taillights are prime examples of products that benefit from the annealing process. The fast-acting infrared reduces time spent on the annealing process from hours to minutes.

Forming - heating of plastic to bend into a specific shape.

Heat staking - This cost-effective method of assembling plastic components uses concentrated IR energy to focus heat on the plastic stake. Non-contact heat from the infrared lamps reduces energy consumption and eliminates heat damage to temperature-sensitive surfaces.

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