The Diversity of Fluoropolymers
What do ravioli and dog biscuits have in common? Well, nothing, really. But—to meet the need of their inherent forms and functions, they share some of the same requirements on the production line.
Who knows if we are fooling any canines by shaping biscuits like bones (it’s likely they know the difference and humor us humans anyway), and raviolis not only get formed into tantalizing shapes, but they have a double requirement for a bottom, top, and delectable filling in the middle. No, you haven’t stumbled onto a foodie blog. And there is a tangible connection between fluoropolymers and food—be it human or four-legged. They are both formed by industrial molds. With any mass-produced, quick-turn manufacturing line, the product needs to release easily and consistently from the mold. Otherwise, you’re “stuck” with slow production outputs and products that are sloppy looking and have inconsistent quality.
Common Advantages—Extraordinary Versatility
For food-grade products like these that need to meet FDA compliance in their manufacturing process, using fluoropolymer coatings to enhance mold release is a perfect solution. Here’s a rundown of the most common advantages to use a fluoropolymer coating on your molds.
- Abrasion resistant
- Chemically inert
- Durable coating
- Easy release (non-stick)
- FDA compliant
- Temperature resistant
It’s so versatile that the same fluoropolymer coating used to manufacture molds for the production of spinach ravioli could be the same type that is used to make those speakers you rock out to, as we learned in our last blog. Cross-over uses are vast, but keep in mind that you need to be aware of what your final mold release needs are to determine what type of coating you’ll need. There are variables to consider when picking the coating best suited for your release needs.
Picking the right coating is a balance of the factors specific to your end needs:
- FDA compliancy
- Wear resistance
Keeping the Balance
Let’s look into this further. The most basic coating is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This, in its unaltered state, provides the best release and has the highest temperature tolerance. It doesn’t, however, allow for abrasion resistance or chemical protection. Let’s say abrasion and chemical resistance are important factors for your end-product, so you want those qualities in your coating. As you add in different components to provide better abrasion and chemical protection—you may lose a bit of the non-stick property or the high-temp tolerance. Here’s the balancing game: if you add in more qualities for an element that is important, you need to factor in if it may be at the expense of other coating properties. (A reputable coater knows how to balance that and make the necessary recommendations for you.)
Looking for mold release with plastics would require different characteristics in the coating. The metal substrates of the mold—usually made of steel or aluminum—are porous enough that plastics stick to it, so they need to be coated for easy release. The right choice of the coating for these molds needs to accommodate the ultimate material for easy release from them. The good news is that PTFE coatings can be “mixed” to provide options for virtually any mold release requirements.
A Good Mix—Great Fit
From American Durafilm, a “middle of the road” coating would be our Durafilm Teflon® black—this fits the needs of many application that we provide. This offers a good mix of durability, chemical protection, non-stick qualities, and abrasion resistance. The maximum operating temperature of raw PTFE (Teflon®) is 600°F—as we add other elements in, the max temp tolerance is 400°F. If we are creating molds for common plastics, then it’s generally not an issue. If the molding application requires a higher temp, then there is only one option—even though it may compromises abrasion and chemical resistance. Yup, the balancing game.
American Durafilm can find an ideal coating for many applications that withstand temperatures up to 600°F that can be very wear resistant when there is an abrasion concern and that are extremely inert—the non-stick property also helps the product to tolerate almost any chemical.
Fluoropolymer Coating Queries
When a company queries us about coatings, we will ask the above factors. But it does go deeper. We’ll want to know about coating thickness. Some jobs require very tight tolerances, so they need super thin—and effective—coatings. An example of this is with industrial rollers used in food service. In order for pies, let’s say, to bake properly and consistently every time, the raw dough needs to be rolled at precisely the same dimension … every time. And you don’t want any dough sticking to the rollers, either. Some customers want “huge” amounts of coating. Powder coatings can be 10-, 20-, 30-mils thick. We are asked to coat tight spaces on some contracts, and it’s not a concern at all on others. We have the capacity to meet all of these requirements, make recommendations, and tailor specs to what our customers need.
Some common—and diverse—molds and applications that we coat:
- Bottle caps
- Clamshell molds
- Compression molds
- Dog biscuits
- Forming molds
- General food molds
- Individual dies
- Industrial rollers
- Injection molds
As is the industry standard, we do have a minimum lot charge, though we are able to handle one and two pieces, not just big batch shipments. We can meet the diverse needs of many companies across industries. American Durafilm provides flexibility all around—in the coating, shapes and sizes that can be coated, and the quantity of materials we can coat. The versatility of these functional coatings allows for almost unlimited application to a wide variety of substrate materials, part sizes, and configurations—always adding value far beyond the inherent non-stick qualities.
American Durafilm® is the oldest and most experienced licensed applicator of DuPont™ Teflon® coatings in the United States. We are also an approved applicator of Whitford™ Xylan® coatings, as well as Dykor®, Halar®, Emralon®, Everlube®, MolyKote®, and hundreds of other functional coatings designed to improve and enhance the performance of your products.
Download our white paper, “Selecting the Correct Fluoropolymer Coating for Maximum Performance” to learn more about how to select the right coating for your next job. At American Durafilm, we help customers find the right solutions for many situations—contact us if you want to discuss how we can help you.