What’s sustainability got to do with insulation for the plastics industry?

Jun 30, 2022 | Shannon Blog

Safety and energy-saving are probably words that come to mind when thinking about insulation and the plastics industry, but add sustainability to that list, too. Typically, the focus of an insulation project for a plastics-making plant is worker safety. For example, when workers swap out pins and dyes to manufacture different size plastic pipe, they get very close to a machine’s extruder heads, which can reach temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Custom-made, thermal insulation systems protect workers from an extrusion line. Operators needn’t wear forearm protection for burns because the blankets serve that role.


Saving Energy with Insulation

Plant managers quickly learn that covering their lines’ extruder heads with removable-reusable insulation blankets also saves energy. For instance, manufacturers often notice heaters cycling on and off more instead of running constantly. Sheet extrusion dies are a large piece of metal and put a lot of heat into the air. Removable and reusable insulation blankets include openings to adjust the extrusion line without removing the blanket. And the blankets eliminate temperature swings in the area around the equipment.

Plastics industry plant managers tell us that once installed an engineered insulation system significantly reduces heat loss and surface temperature for their plastics extrusion, injection molding and blow molding equipment. Any surface covered typically shows a heat loss reduction of about 85 percent. With average surface temperatures of hundreds of degree Fahrenheit, the reduction in heat energy loss equals a payback on an investment in reusable insulation of less than six months.


Reusability Spells Sustainability

Because thermal blankets used by plastics makers are reusable, there’s an annual savings for as long as the product is in place, which can be up to 15 years or more.

A plastics industry veteran using Shannon insulation blankets noted, “The best compliment for reusable blankets comes from our machine operators who continue to remove and replace these blankets once a month to make routine adjustments and perform maintenance.”

Making reusable blankets for extruder barrels and extruder heads to name a few components takes designs that adhere to specifications and tests like ASTM and UL. Designing to exacting standards and specifications ensures the production of a thermal blanket that machine operators and maintenance workers can remove and easily replace, which justifies an investment in sustainable insulation.

According to a plastics-making plant manager who bought Shannon insulation, “The blankets aren’t required for the plastics-making process, so my guys would have put them in a box after the first time they removed them if they weren’t beneficial, easy to take off, and easy to put back on.”

Specific features to look for in a truly reusable blanket system include:

  • Integral fasteners for an easy-on, easy-off process.
  • Double-sewn construction, so the blanket system retains its shape and endures repeated handling.
  • Non-porous, high-quality jacketing that holds up under extreme conditions.
  • Designed with a CAD/CNC/ERP and QA/QC approach

Plastics industry professionals can find the aforementioned features as part of thermal insulation blankets like the LT550SG, which saves energy, retains heat and ensures reuse. And as plastics industry professionals who’ve used these blankets will tell anyone who asks, “Reusability spells sustainability.”