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5 Reasons You Should Switch from Sheet Metal to Thermoformed Plastic

why-upgrade-imageSheet metal and thermoformed plastics are common options that have very different impacts on your time, budget and product performance. What if I told you that you could replace most of the metal parts on your car with plastic and still keep its strength and durability? Need more convincing? 

Here are five reasons why you should switch from sheet metal to thermoformed plastic. 

1. Plastic Is Lightweight

Thermoformed plastic parts can be up to 6 times lighter than metal and still offer great impact resistance. Lighter parts equal reduced shipping costs, increased fuel efficiency (in vehicles) and higher productivity rates.

This can also be a factor in the final product, particularly in the automotive or aerospace industries where fuel consumption is a strong consideration.

Weight also factors into costs for installation and maintenance. Multiple people may be needed to move and install a heavy metal part, whereas only one person would be needed for a lighter-weight plastic part.

2. It’s Cost-Effective

The metal fabrication process is lengthy. From designing, cutting, welding and painting – each step factors into a higher priced finished good. With thermoformed plastic, you can skip the paint and opt for a custom color sheet. Then it’s form, trim (and assemble, if you want) and your parts are out the door.

Metals, such as stainless steel, can cost up to three times more than plastic for the same part. For most metal materials, fluctuating market prices and material availability have an additional impact on cost.

3. Shorter Lead Times

On-time part delivery is critical to keeping your production line running smoothly, and several factors can halt delivery at any stage of a part’s production process. One way to mitigate the risk of long lead times is to purchase a part that has fewer – and more efficient – steps in its production process.

Because there are fewer steps required to make a finished plastic part, your lead times can be shorter than with metal fabrication. The labor required for thermoforming is less intense, so production is quick and painless. 

When creating parts via sheet metal fabrication, secondary processes, including cutting, welding and bending, take up additional time. Once a metal part is machined, it still is not ready for delivery. Sheet metal may require  painting, coating, and heat treating before a component can be shipped.

4. Despite the Rumors, It’s Eco-Friendly

Plastic often gets a bad rap when it comes to environmental concerns. Luckily, plastic scrap produced can be ground down and reintroduced into the extrusion process. This “utility” or “reprocessed” sheet can be used again to make new parts – saving the environment and cutting costs.

5 . More Design Freedom

As part design complexity increases, metal part costs increase at an exponential rate. On the other hand, as part complexity increases with thermoformed plastics, the cost impact remains relatively flat. The extra steps required to create designs with sheet metal also increase labor and production costs and wear on tooling. 

The ability to incorporate complex, three-dimensional part designs, colors, finishes, textures and branding directly into the tooling means the design freedom and versatility to  enable faster production cycles. Furthermore, detailed design customization is possible with thermoforming even when adhering to tight tolerances.

Ready to Make the Switch from Metal to Plastic?

Depending on your particular needs, thermoformed plastics are often a better choice than sheet metal components. If you’re manufacturing using sheet metal, it’s worth taking a look at switching to thermoformed plastic for a durable product that costs less. 

If you’re ready to make the switch from metal to plastic, Joslyn Manufacturing can guide your transition. Contact us today to get started.

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Topics: Thermoforming, Thermoform Plastic


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