The missing tool in polymer extrusion? One word: Simulation

Siemens Theorist Siemens Theorist
Siemens Theorist

“One word: plastics”


In the 1967 film ‘The Graduate’, the young protagonist Benjamin is given this careers advice by a neighbor. The film can be seen as a satire on 1960’s middle America, with a career in plastics representing a safe, staid option. This may have been the case then, but no one can deny the importance of plastics in every aspect of our lives now. Not just plastics, but rubber and other polymers, are essential to the manufacture of modern products, from everyday essentials to innovative new technologies. “Plastics” is now seen as a career in an exciting and expanding field.


Extrusion, polymer die casting and polymer film casting are the most common operations to create polymer and ceramic products out of a base material. You could consider these processes to be an early form of additive manufacturing: building a 3D object from layers of material. However, working with polymers and plastics is challenging, due to the complex chemistry and physics of the fluids, including non-Newtonian behavior and a wide range of fluid properties. Extrusion can be expensive, both in its use of raw materials and the energy involved, and it is vital to ensure the correct die design is used, to guarantee the final product shape. In today’s competitive market, companies need to ensure their production processes are as efficient and robust as possible, while also bringing new products to market in shorter time frames.


One word: Simulation


If I were advising Benjamin today I would use a different quote: “One word: simulation”.  But there is no satire here, and I’m not suggesting a standard career. Instead, this one word opens up a range of possibilities which are currently underused in the plastics industry. I suspect that Benjamin (and possibly you) would be unaware of the benefits that CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulation can bring, by giving greater understanding into extrusion and casting, and optimizing the processes to reduce the raw materials and energy required.


I could go even further and suggest “one word: STAR-CCM+”. Simcenter STAR-CCM+ contains models to simulate viscous and viscoelastic materials, as well as tools to optimize designs.  But don’t just take my word for it: join us for a free webinar on 27 February to find out more.




During the webinar we will discuss how the finite element-based viscous flow solver in Simcenter STAR-CCM+ can be used to simulate extrusion and ensure correct die design. Primary topics covered are:

  • An overview of the available viscoelastic constitutive models in STAR-CCM+
  • An introduction to the material calibration feature.
  • Pre-die chamber design using design manager in STAR-CCM+
  • Extrusion and die design process using the ALE approach.

The Graduate film ends with Benjamin running away with the girl he loves, and his whole future ahead of him. We don’t know what that future holds, or if plastics is the route he chooses – probably not! But 50 years on, the plastics and polymers industry is an essential and growing part of the manufacturing economy, and simulation will play an important role in its development over the coming years. For more information, register for the webinar today.