Introduction: Plastic Injection Molding and Extruding

Picture of Plastic Injection Molding and Extruding

Plastic Injection molding is simple with the right equipment. All that you need is a heater and some plastic.

Recycled plastics will yield the best results if kept to their respective groupings. Refer to the recycle symbols and do not mix types.

ABS is my plastic of choice, I used an old HP inkjet printer as the raw materials for this example.

I used a commercially available temperature control for this project but I have posted an accurate precision temperature controller in another Instructable.

All told this project took me about 2 hours and about $50 to assemble and test...

shown below is a 3mm ABS extrusion being done


NOTE: I have added a section with an example of a crude press lever.

Step 1: Important Notice!!!!

Picture of Important Notice!!!!

SAFETY….

Hot plastics are NASTY and EVIL!!!!… USE gloves and a face shield at minimum. For example… Hot ABS is at minimum 110 Degrees Celsius or 230 Degree Fahrenheit and will stick to you plus will continue to burn you after it burns your skin off… Use extreme caution!!!!

Materials required will be shown as used. This as a free-form Instructable. Be sure to read through entirely before deciding if you should build. I built and documented this on the fly as I built it for myself…

I recommend using this in an extremely well ventilated area like outside. The initial set up will produce smoke if the plastic is overheated...

Step 2: Select Your Injector Body

Picture of Select Your Injector Body

The local big box retailer will yield most of the materials for this project. The material chosen were driven by the type of heaters that I had available to me. The heaters will be discussed later.

The main injector body is made up from a section of Black pipe.

Check that the interior of your pipe is seam free… If not you will need to smooth the edges with a drill bit of appropriate size, for a ¾ inch black pipe you will need a drill bit of 0.5906 inches.

This will provide clearance for the later installed plunger which is discussed later.

I used a 3/4 inch pipe that started out at just over 20 inches long. it needs to be threaded on one end.

 

Step 3: Create a Plunger

Picture of Create a Plunger

The plunger needs to be as snug to the inside of the pipe as possible without binding.

Check the interior dimensions of the ¾ inch pipe using a standard and metric mechanic socket set.

I found a 15mm – 3/8 inch drive socket from Sears was ideal fit. Check the interior of your pipe with similar tools for a tight yet non-binding fit.  A loose fit will allow for plastic to slide past the head and back towards the shaft which will result in waste which is not desirable.

My plunger shaft is made from a 3/8 inch socket extension attached to the 15mm Craftsman socket.
 

The socket is placed the wrong way onto the extension and permanently fastened. This can either be drilled and pinned or welded. I chose to weld since it was quickest and I had the materials available to me. The socket must be permanently fixed to provide satisfactory results.

If you want to use ½ inch black pipe the tightest socket that I found is a Craftsman 5/8 by ¼ inch drive socket. Always check fit before using.

Step 4: Make the Injector Body

Picture of Make the Injector Body

Cut and shape the pipe as shown according to the length of heater and the main plunger assembly. The cuts were made with an angle grinder using a 1/8 inch cut-off blade. Loud but quick...

The idea here is to create a loading port for the plastic that is to be melted and a guide for the plunger assembly.

The port needs to be free of any sharp edges and loose metal, after cutting it is finished with a file or burr remover.

Cutting the pipe will leave one threaded end of the pipe will be the outlet port and should not be modified.

Step 5: Attach the Heater

Picture of Attach the Heater

The heating comes from 2 heater rods made by Ogden ratings of 400W at 240V. These were purchased from eBay at $1.00 each. You will need 2 at this rating. Others are available at various pricing… the length of these will determine the entire length of the injector body as shown in the pictures. The heater will run the entire length of the injector body below the plastic inlet port that was cut earlier.

You will also need a piece of standard 1/2 inch copper water pipe about 4 inches long and 2 slotted metal brackets that are 8 inches long.

Using stainless hose clamps, fasten the heaters to the black pipe using the slotted metal brackets and copper pipe as a spacer as shown.

The goal here is to create a solid metal support for the proper functioning of the heaters and temperature probe.

The copper pipe is a hollow space for the temperature probe to sit and provides an accurate heating temperature adjustment.

I used a commercially available temperature control for this project but I have posted a precision temperature controller in another Instructable.

The wiring for this is per the instructions which are usually printed on the power relay of the controller. The heaters require the voltage that is printed on them, in this case 240V.

Step 6: Insulate the Assembly...

Picture of Insulate the Assembly...

The entire assembly is wrapped with fiber glass heat insulation material which is available from most ceramic supply houses. This reduces heat loss and allows for more rapid heating. It is necessary and will reduce the chance of injury and will be more economical in the future. The insulation is wrapped and held it in place using aluminum tape which is available from most big box retailers…

Do not compact the insulation. Keep it loose and held in place by the tape...

place insulation over the entire heater section of the injector body paying attention not to pack it between the injector body and temperature probe.

The finished section will look a little bulky.

Step 7: Attach to Frame.

Picture of Attach to Frame.


The frame I used was constructed from the same slotted angle steel as used earlier.

The frame design is largely dependent upon the use of the injector assembly. Since I initially needed to use this as a simple extrusion device I made a frame that was just 2 upright bars with 2 horizontal cross sections for the injector body support. Other frame design will be covered in a later instructable.

The attachment points are critical though.

Attach the heater body to the frame at the top above the plastic inlet port cutout and at the bottom on the lower part of the reducer. This will provide the support for the pressing action that will follow. I used stainless steel hose clamps for attaching the injector body..




Step 8: Fit the Nozzle

Picture of Fit the Nozzle


The extrusion quality and diameter of plastic is entirely dependent upon the nozzle. The 3/4 to1/2 inch reducer at the bottom of the injector body needs to be fitted with a brass reducer from 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch. The the further reduction to nozzles is also in the form of brass barb fittings.

Many brass barb fitting sizes are available for the making of plastic extrusions or ingots for the later re-use in injection moldings.

Step 9: Lenghten the Extension

Picture of Lenghten the Extension


The plunger will need to be a little longer than the initial welded part. Again you can drill and pin this or weld, I happened to weld this again using my oxy/acetyl torch.

I added the 6 inch extension to the plunger assembly.

Step 10: Manual Press Lever

Picture of Manual Press Lever


The frame that I used was slotted angle from a local Big Box retailer. It came in 4 foot sections so I bought 5.

The support legs and lever supports are heavy duty shelving brackets from the same retailer.

I cut and shaped a piece of 3/4 inch black pipe (rough shown for demonstration) The cuts did weaken the lever and this is to be rectified during a later build.

I also used a 1/2 inch steel rod for the lever pivot point.

This lever is crude but effective. It is about 3 feet long The lever to plunger support is about 8 inches long.

You may need to press in on the lever to plunger pivot point to make sure that the plunger enters the heating chamber properly.

Step 11: Heat and Use

Picture of Heat and Use

I have found that a 1/8 inch brass barb fitting will steady pressure will give a uniform extrusion of just a little less than 3mm. This extruded rod is of use to the Makerbot products. And allows for re-use of failed projects and the further re-use of plastics that would be normally thrown away...

The fore for the plunger was supplied using my weight on a t-handle attached to the top of the plunger assembly. This is a crude method and a pull down handle will be added to the frame for the future Instructable on injection mold making using this same set-up.

The plastic to be used will have to be cut into strips of pieces to fit into the inlet port opening above the insulation pack.

You may notice some smoke at the initial start up of the machine, this is normal.

Be sure to pre-heat the machine to a couple of degrees above the melting point of the plastic before adding the plastic. Wait a couple of minuted and apply pressure to begin the extrusion.

The length of the extrusion is determined by the amount of plastic used and can be lengthened by adding more plastic to the inlet port after withdrawing the plunger.

Note that too much heat will cause smoke and burn the plastic, both of which are highly undesirable.

Again do not touch the extrusion until it cools.

Comments

ivver (author)2017-01-19

How do you make molds?

RenatoP12 (author)2016-03-30

What i was thinking about the problem with printing bigger objects:
Why
don't the mold itself get heated to about the same temperature like the
nozzle? So you wouldn't need to inject that fast and hence don't need
such excessive force.

(I mean just placing another heating element into the aluminum mold)

Would that make sense?

adam.shaffer.125 (author)2015-09-11

Great instructable. How well does this work injecting molds? Silicon Molds?

Thanks!

Small basic shapes seemed to work well but more complex would require more force than the lever could supply.

curtismartz (author)2015-01-23

a bottle or scissor jack mounted upside down might be a good option to push the plunger, if you were lazy you could even turn the jack with a variable speed drill

variable speed still is not a bad idea as it could help provide a more uniform extrusion

By all means, please let me know if this works for you.

Sorry for the late reply!

Spaceman Spiff (author)2014-12-01

Have you made molds for this yet, or do you have any suggestions for someone seeking to make an ABS injection mold? What materials to use to make the mold? How to go about it?

ThinkTink made it! (author)2014-10-16

This was a great instructable, lots of photos and well defined instructions. I made a modified version of this. Used the heating element and temperature control from a consumer grade hot plate and went for more of boom style articulating lever to allow for better plunger movement. Did not insulate the heating area, but put a safety cage around it. Used aluminum from a hair flat iron to insulate the heating pipe and the frame. Main pipe, extruder, and means of attachment are as posted in the instructable. Most of this was scrap around my garage (I play around with welding). The cost: $46 (but I also bought $10 worth of additional brass fittings for different size extruders). All this and no molds to inject. That is the next step.

Bujholm (author)2013-08-25

Nice device you have here. Looking at it I have two questions - do you ever encounter any metal chips in your filament? The plunger seems to be scratching the walls generously for that. Also - when the plastic cools, do you clean the whole affair? Or just reheat it next time and push the remainder of old plastic out with the new?
Thanks!

Random_Canadian (author)Bujholm2013-09-03

I haven't had any metal chips. I typically use ABS so I don't have to clean it, just reheat an run.

wleedham (author)2013-07-01

I wonder if you could use this proses to make diy abs spools for a makerbot?

Random_Canadian (author)wleedham2013-07-02

That was the initial intent. Be sure to get the temperature right or the filaments will be brittle and unusable.

swilus (author)2013-05-01

This is really cool. Good job! I want one.

lkroland (author)2012-12-05

Thanks for a great instructable. Have you tried injecting the plastic into a mold?

lordl9999 (author)2012-10-19

Hey I'm trying to do something (very)simmilar
can you/ someone please help me with the wiring from the controller to the heater?

- take a look at my question and wiring diagram here:

https://www.instructables.com/answers/injection-molding-machine-help-me-with-the-wiring/

I would really really REALLY appreciate it thanks!

Yahshuatwo (author)2012-08-15

First of All, I hate the Captcha - I wish this security feature was disabled!

Secondly, I love this DIY injection molding and extruded device - clever. I 'm planning on developing one myself using a drill press, automotive piston sleeve, piston and rings (say yes :-)); they posses all of the attributes for this of type application. I will use heat bans around the cylinder and devise a spring loaded rod to connect to the piston/rings. The rings should provide a heat resistant sealed stoke using ABS pellets. I would only need to design tapered extrusion bulk-head that could accept different attachment fittings. A 2-3" sleeve would be necessary for the volume melted ABS i need to inject. I think I only need to injection-mould 16-24" oz - think of a 24 oz beer can as the dimension.

Dokholliday (author)2012-04-09

I'm understanding that everyone is concerned with the constant feeding of raw stock into the extruder so as to have the ability to extrude in an endless cycle so one might put his stock on a reel. If one were to install multiple batch bins and of of course for such an upgrade one might also have to invest in more heaters etc so as to be feeding one while the other is being refilled and brought up to a predetermined preheated temp and then to the final preferred heat to make you final plastic temp (+ 10 or 20 degrees F) as uniform and consistent heat where on might install with valves and or a simple valve system one could alternate between 2, 3, 4 or more. In the commercial world I know there are also insulated heated flexible lines that maintain the heat of the material to keep it fluid till the material reaches the extrusion head 9The ones I was familiar with was for hot glue applications). If a person had a way to use copper line and maybe some sort of DC current to heat a predetermined length or maybe an element that would heat the tubing one could fix an array of hoppers and extrude indefinitely or until such time as the equipment need cleaning. BTW if one had access to a porcelain tube of knew how to coat tubing with a non conductive agent then one would be able to transmit and transition you plastic in a fluid state from point a to b by using this method and or wrapping the tube with and element. ( https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Hot-Air-Soldering-Iron-using-12-18volts-DC-at-/step4/Heating-element/ )

pfred2 (author)2011-10-13


So what you've made here is essentially a big homemade hot glue gun?

Checking out your article I couldn't escape the thought that most everything you used in it looks like stuff found in an electric hot water heater. I've ripped a few of those apart for stock and materials so I have a bunch of the heating elements and thermostats that come out of them now. I didn't think to save any of the insulation though. The insulation is usually pretty nasty by the time a hot water heater is shot.

I think if I did this I might want to use a wooden dowel for the plunger. Seems like such a shame to waste a perfectly good socket and extension. Run properly this thing should never get hot enough to char wood should it?

baslisks (author)pfred22011-11-17

the normal plastic I would use gets to 240 degrees Celsius. So a wet rod wouldn't char but a dry one would. Would rather use a metal plunger and avoid that possibility.

lordl9999 (author)2011-10-30

I have a VERY similar project going on, can you help me with my wiring or show me how you've done it?

would be VERY appreciated!

https://www.instructables.com/answers/basic-wiring-for-a-home-made-benhtop-injection-m/

escher7 (author)2011-10-12

Your how-to is excellent and very clear. Forgive my "dumb" but the extruding plastic itself is used how?

jongscx (author)2011-10-12

I've seen this done with wood auger attached to an electric motor, essentially making it an auto-feed using the pellets.

hmuringa (author)2011-09-09

HI!!! Do you use this plastic filament for 3D printing?

Instead of using recycled plastic Ii put the raw material (ABS) as little plastic marbles (ABS is sold like in small balls, very cheap), do you think I can get a filament good enough for using on a reprap???

Thanks

palmeida2 (author)hmuringa2011-09-12

Hi Hmuringa,

could you tell me on the internet where I could find ABS raw material to buy it?

Best regards,
Pedro

hmuringa (author)palmeida22011-09-13

Hello!!!

The raw material I was talking about is called pellet... Just google ABS pellet and you'll find tons of places... Most are for industrial use, but you can also find on ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=abs+pellet&_sacat=See-All-Categories

=]

palmeida2 (author)hmuringa2011-09-13

Thanks for your reply! i already have look and found it.

Best regards and good construtions

codesuidae (author)2011-09-09

Are there any entrained air bubbles in the extruded rod?

At the rate you are extruding, how much distance is required for the rod to be cool enough to coil onto a roll?

some bubbles and brittleness do occur if the heat is to high..

kill-a-watt (author)2011-03-21

Since this appears to be a batch extruder, how long of a filament can you produce?

Have you tried spicing lengths together?

How does the recycled plastic print compared to virgin plastic?

I was getting about a 2 foot length. At the bottom of the stroke I was able to lift the plunger and insert more plastic to continue the length, The is a little knob formed where the plastic pieces join. So far I have been able to get a 6 foot length.

I mainly use the 2 foot rods for plastic welding without any problems. I have as of yet to do more testing on the differences between the plastics. One note is that overheating will produce a brittle plastic. The recycled plastics that I have now seem to have similar flex properties as the new plastics.

I hope that this helps...

have you thought about using a drill bit big enough to fit in the tube as an auger in the pipe instead of the plunger? that way you could keep feeding in more platic without stopping.

I did try a wood auger bit inside of the 1/2 inch black pipe , It was an excellent fit but it would not create enough pressure to extrude, the plastic just sort of milled around but would not come out of the extrusion port. I think that there was not enough friction between the surfaces to work but I am not certain.

Constant feed is possible and I haven't tried splicing. A single plunger stroke will give about a 26 inch length and continuous feed is kind of possible since the plastic is quite sticky. virgin is definitely better but that may be due to heating irregularities in the rig.

dcassina (author)2011-03-16

Hey Random_Canadian,

Thanks for the instructable... I'm about 60-70% done with this project. Can you let me know what temperature control you purchased online for this one? Or at least what type I should look for... I looked at your other instructable but am not too familiar with circuits so am choosing to buy one.

Thanks in advance,
Diego

Random_Canadian (author)dcassina2011-03-17

I purchased several years ago from eBay. Try doing a search for a kiln controller. Be sure to look for one that includes a thermocouple. The search that I did shows that they have come down dramatically in price.

Good luck with your build. I will be posting extra instruction to this which is a simple manual lever type plunger.

Sorry and a power relay if the controller does not have an internal one.

dcassina (author)Random_Canadian2011-03-22

Thanks for the quick replies... I'm looking for a kiln controller, but I'm still a little unfamiliar... so the heating cartridges (two of them) connect to the temperature controller? I searched the internet quite a bit but am having trouble finding information on this.

Random_Canadian (author)dcassina2011-03-22

The controller will activate a power relay. This is used to isolate the controller from main power. The relay is just a switch that interrupts power to the heaters. The power relay will typically have 2 power inputs, 2 power outputs and 2 controller inputs. Main power is connected to the inputs and the two heaters are connected in series(high wattage heaters) or parallel(low wattage heaters) to the outputs. The controller should come with a manual which will contain the circuit diagrams.

I hope that this helps

Like the article.

Cheap PID controller with k-type thermocouple:
http://www.dealextreme.com/p/digital-temperature-controller-66334
About $17 with free shipping

pyrosniperfreak (author)2011-02-28

Hey, is there any way to use this technique to mold rubbers? maybe silicone, or maybe some other harder rubbers?

dmwright (author)2011-02-24

There are band heaters made specificly to wrap around pipe made by the same outfits that make the cartridge heaters you are using but a lot easier to get good even heat transfer.  Take a peak at mcmaster.com to see what they are then scroung e-bay for them.

BTW if you run the heaters at 120vac they work fine but make half the heat, 400w becomes 200w.
Really neat hack!!!!

Share and Enjoy,
Dave

Random_Canadian (author)dmwright2011-02-25

Thanks, sadly the only band type heater that I could find was 4 inches in diameter.


I have 240V wired to my workspace but I thought that the conversion on the heaters was half the current and about 1/4 of the power.

dmwright (author)Random_Canadian2011-02-25

Random,
Just checked to make sure  Watts = Volts x Amps per Ohm's law so 1/2 the voltage means half the power.  See the link below
http://www.watlow.com/reference/equations/0103.cfm

Here is a link to a lot of calculations that are really handy for figuring out how much umph one needs to heat up or melt stuff.
http://www.watlow.com/reference/files/powercalculations.pdf

All the major suppliers have these handbooks on their websites.  Some names... Hotwatt, Tempco, Dalton, Vulcan,   Watlow was the first that came to mind.

Share and Enjoy
Dave

Random_Canadian (author)dmwright2011-02-25

I took the heater resistance as a constant in this case 144 ohms, with this scenario both voltage and current are varriable.
Try P=(V*V)/R... 240 V gives 400W while 120V gives 100W.

dmwright (author)Random_Canadian2011-02-25

You are absolutely right. A closer reading yeilded "Watts vary directly as ratio of voltage sguared" W1 = W2 (E2/E1)^2 down in the lower left corner of the Ohm's Law chart

rimar2000 (author)2011-02-16

This is very interesting.

do you know if is PET suitable for extruding?

Yes it is. You can use most thermo-plastics for this. Thermo-set plastics cannot be used. You will need to research the melting and burning points for proper machine set-up.

I have not had the need to try most others as of yet.

PET is thermo-shrinkable, that is a very good thing!

dmwright (author)rimar20002011-02-24

PET is the stuff of soda bottles, which are stretch blow molded; first a parison is injection molded to provide the finish where the top threads on and the right distribution of material for the sides of the final bottle. The parison looks a bit like a test tube with a thread at the top and rather thick walls. The parison is heated at the blowmolder to almost it's melting temperature and clamped in a mold the shape of the finished bottle plus at bit of shrinkage. A stretch rod enters the mouth of the parison and stretches the softened PET to almost the final length of the bottle then a blast of air inflates the parison forcing it against the cool walls of the mold where the plastic solidifies. This leaves the molded bottle with a lot of molded in stress. The stress is the source of the "thermo-shrinkability you mention. One can also think of it as the plastic having a memory of its original shape and a strong desire to return to that shape if heated to near its softening point.

Share and Enjoy,
Dave

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