How can your extrusion or injection shop maximize profits and save on expenses when business is slow?

Currently, many manufacturing industries are struggling with various issues – the inability to obtain essential raw materials or components to create their products, labor shortage issues, much longer delivery times, and more. Increasing costs are also driving a looming slowdown in many sectors. So, what can you do to maximize profits and save on expenses during a slowdown? Preventative maintenance is the key.

It would be best if you stayed on top of any potential issues that could slow or halt your production altogether. It is a good idea to perform regular maintenance based on the run-time of the machine and not by calendar date. Some machines run longer hours or run abrasive or corrosive resins and require more frequent inspections. If you prefer to go by calendar date, schedule your inspections quarterly, at a minimum. Even though regular preventative maintenance will cost you a bit of money and take a little time, improperly maintained equipment will cost you much more.

What should be checked regularly?

  • The barrel
  • The screw
  • Control panel
  • Gearbox
  • All wiring
  • Barrel fans
  • Barrel heaters
  • Breaker plates
  • Valves and endcaps
  • Sealing surfaces
  • Feed throat channels
  • All upstream and downstream equipment

Too many companies wait until their machines break down before repairing or replacing parts. Your company isn’t making money if your machines aren’t running. If you wait until a part has broken, you may find it difficult to replace or repair it as quickly as you need it.

How do you know there is a problem?

Some issues with your machines, particularly with the barrel and screw, can be challenging to detect. A few indicators that you have a problem include (but are not limited to):

  • Gels start to become a problem
  • Filter failures increase
  • Higher temperatures in the barrel
  • Process instabilities
  • An increase in RPM rates with the same output levels
  • And more

If you notice these types of issues, here are a few things you should check:

  • Screw flights should maintain their squared edges
  • Chromed surfaces should be free of flaking, peeling, or other wear
  • If darkened in appearance, it should be uniform
  • Flight should not have any visible cracking,
  • There should be no scoring on the hub, screw, feed section, or throat
  • Check for axial deflection
  • Check the straightness of the screw and barrel
  • And more


Closely inspect your screw, barrel, and valves for signs of wear. A worn but not yet broken part may still work but not as well as it should, resulting in slower cycle times and less finished product per work shift. Keeping a close on equipment wear allows you to plan for replacement parts before a broken or worn part negatively impacts your production. Excessive wear can cause issues such as instable throughput, increased melt temperatures, reduced plasticating rates, and more.

Some causes of excessive wear include (but are not limited to):

  • Barrel straightness
  • Barrel alignment to the gearbox
  • Fillers in the polymer
  • High head pressure
  • The type of polymer being processed
  • Screw flight to Barrel liner compatibility
  • Screw or barrel concentricity
  • Screw speed
  • Screw straightness
  • And more

Rebuild versus new

Even with regular maintenance, parts may still break. What do you do if you have a broken tip or drive? What if the screw has seized in the barrel? Many companies don’t know that often the parts can be rebuilt instead of having to be replaced. The broken tip can be extracted, the ID threads repaired, the drive repaired, seized screw pressed out of the barrel then repaired and polished, and more.

New parts are always great, but rebuilding can be a better choice for many problems. Particularly if you have a backup part, such as a backup alloy screw. The screw can be rebuilt and re-chromed to OEM standards at considerable savings when compared to the cost of a new screw. These repairs typically take a few days to a couple of weeks… just be sure to select a repair shop that is experienced with these parts and is reputable, such as Santa Fe Machine.

No matter what plasticating application (extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, twin screw extrusion, and more), you need your machines to work properly and hold critical tolerances. Preventative maintenance is key to keeping your production moving smoothly.

How can we help you?

For over 99 years, the doors have been open at Santa Fe Machine Works, Inc., and the past 45 years have been dedicated solely to the manufacture and supply of new & rebuilt injection & extrusion screws, as well as barrels & valves, to the plastics industry. We offer custom-tailored screw, barrel, and valve combos allowing our customer’s production goals to be met in the best, fastest, and most cost-effective ways possible. Our employees have over 200 years of combined experience in the plastics industry, be assured we can support your needs. Have a question, need assistance, or looking for a quote? Contact us today!