Find Answers to All Your Plastic Thermoforming Questions
As an industrial thermoformer specializing in design, tooling and production of plastic components, we work with you to bring your vision to life. Our team has the expertise to create innovative solutions in a wide range of industries, including OEM components and can aid in materials selection as well as part design. Use these FAQs to learn what thermoforming is, how it works, what materials are best and more.
Q. What is thermoforming?
A. Thermoforming is the process of heating and molding plastic sheet using air pressure and vacuum. In order to achieve the final product, thermoforming uses several different types of molds and processes. Our in-house thermoform tooling capabilities ensures the outcomes are to spec, and our secondary and trimming operations finalize your products so they are ready to ship. Learn more about our 3-stage plastic thermoforming process.
Q.How does thermoforming work?
A. To thermoform a plastic product:
- A sheet of plastic material is clamped into a thermoformer and sent into an oven for heating.
- Once it reaches the right temperature for processing, it’s transferred to a mold, where either vacuum or air pressure is used to form a part.
- The formed part is then cooled, removed from the mold and sent to the next station for trimming.
Learn more about thermoforming and how it works here.
Q. Now that I know the basics of thermoforming, how is it different from injection molding?
A. Although the quality and detail of parts manufactured from both processes are similar, there are a few differences. The tooling for thermoformed parts is much less expensive. This is because injection molding tools require a cavity and a core, while the tooling used in the thermoforming process is one-sided. Because of this, parts get to production quicker. Another difference is that the tooling used in thermoforming can be easily and affordably modified in the event of a product design change
Q. Should I choose vacuum forming or pressure forming?
A. It depends on the benefits you need.
Vacuum forming works best on products that are simple and don’t require great detail. Vacuum forming plastics is a good choice for tight budgets, time constraints, items with large dimensions and lower volume, shorter runs. We use industrial vacuum forming as a suitable replacement for other custom forming processes that use sheet metal, fiberglass or wood.
Pressure forming is recommended when aesthetics are critical. The pressure forming process creates parts with detailed textures and crisp features, similar to injection molding. And because its tooling and production are simpler and faster than injection molding, pressure forming creates plastic products at a fraction of the cost. So, the process selected is based on your needs.
Q. There are so many material choices – how do I know which one is best?
A. When selecting a material for your project, you should consider how you expect the part to perform and its end use. Factors such as UV exposure, flame resistance and durability may all affect which material is best suited for your application. There is a wide range of thermoforming materials that provide just the right properties for your plastic formed product. Learn about six of the more common thermoforming materials. Still undecided? We can help you determine the right material for your project.
Q. Can thermoforming be used to make something other than packaging?
A. Although thin-gauge packaging is common, there are many other thermoformed parts you probably don’t realize you see every day. You can find these parts in cars and trucks, on medical devices and even on farm equipment! Thermoforming can produce parts made from very thin material (.005”) or thick, sturdy material up to .500”, although most parts are made from sheet between .062” to .375” thick.
Need additional help? Contact us to speak with a plastic thermoforming professional.