Blow molding (also known as blow moulding or blow forming) is a manufacturing process by which hollow plastic parts are formed. In general, there are three main types of blow molding: extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, and stretch blow molding. The blow molding process begins with melting down the plastic and forming it into a parison or preform. The parison is a tube-like piece of plastic with a hole in one end in which compressed air can pass through.
The parison is then clamped into a mold and air is pumped into it. The air pressure then pushes the plastic out to match the mold. Once the plastic has cooled and hardened the mold opens up and the part is ejected.
History of blow molding
There has been evidence found suggesting that Egyptians and Babylonians blew plastic materials, but Enoch Ferngren and William Kopitke were the first verified people who used the Blow Molding Process. The process principle comes from the idea of blowing glass. Ferngren and Kopitke produced a blow molding machine and sold it to Hartford Empire Company in 1937. This was the beginning of the commercial blow molding process. During the 1940s the variety and amount of products were still very limited and therefore blow molding did not take off until later. Once the variety and production rates went up the amount of products created followed soon there after. In the United States soft drink industry the amount of plastic containers went from zero in 1977 to ten Billion in 1999. Today even a greater amount of products are blown and it is expected to keep increasing.

Typologies of blow molding

In extrusion blow molding (EBM), plastic is melted and extruded into a hollow tube (a parison). This parison is then captured by closing it into a cooled metal mold. Air is then blown into the parison, inflating it into the shape of the hollow bottle, container or part. After the plastic has cooled sufficiently, the mold is opened and the part is ejected. Continuous and Intermittent are two variations of Extrusion Blow Molding. In Continuous Extrusion Blow Molding the parison is extruded continuously and the individual parts are cut off by a suitable knife. In Intermittent blow molding there are two processes: straight intermittent is similar to injection molding whereby the screw turns, then stops and pushes the melt out. With the accumulator method, an accumulator gathers melted plastic and when the previous mold has cooled and enough plastic has accumulated, a rod pushes the melted plastic and forms the parison. In this case the screw may turn continuously or intermittently.

The process of injection blow molding (IBM) is used for the production of hollow glass and plastic objects in large quantities. In the IBM process, the polymer is injection molded onto a core pin; then the core pin is rotated to a blow molding station to be inflated and cooled. This is the least-used of the three blow molding processes, and is typically used to make small medical and single serve bottles. The process is divided into three steps: injection, blowing and ejection.
The injection blow molding machine is based on an extruder barrel and screw assembly which melts the polymer. The molten polymer is fed into a manifold where it is injected through nozzles into a hollow, heated preform mold. The preform mold forms the external shape and is clamped around a mandrel (the core rod) which forms the internal shape of the preform. The preform consists of a fully formed bottle/jar neck with a thick tube of polymer attached, which will form the body.
The preform mold opens and the core rod is rotated and clamped into the hollow, chilled blow mold. The core rod opens and allows compressed air into the preform, which inflates it to the finished article shape.
After a cooling period the blow mold opens and the core rod is rotated to the ejection position. The finished article is stripped off the core rod and leak-tested prior to packing. The preform and blow mold can have many cavities, typically three to sixteen depending on the article size and the required output. There are three sets of core rods, which allow concurrent preform injection, blow molding and ejection.

In the stretch blow molding (SBM) process, the plastic is first molded into a "preform" using the injection molding process. These preforms are produced with the necks of the bottles, including threads (the "finish") on one end. These preforms are packaged, and fed later (after cooling) into a reheat stretch blow molding machine. In the SBM process, the preforms are heated (typically using infrared heaters) above their glass transition temperature, then blown using high pressure air into bottles using metal blow molds. Usually the preform is stretched with a core rod as part of the process. In the single-stage process both preform manufacture and bottle blowing are performed in the same machine. The stretching of some polymers, such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) results in strain hardening of the resin, allowing the bottles to resist deforming under the pressures formed by carbonated beverages, which typically approach 60 psi.The main applications are bottles, jars and other containers.
Advantages of blow molding include: low tool and die cost; fast production rates; ability to mold complex part; produces recyclable parts
Disadvantages of blow molding include: limited to hollow parts, wall thickness is hard to control.

SHINE 2018