All custom thermoforming projects begin with the right tooling. Tooling is the most important factor in manufacturing a quality thermoformed product. The right thermoforming tooling can produce crisp lines, edges, texture and other detailing that stays consistent from piece to piece.
Deciphering tool quotes can be difficult, however, especially if you’re new to the thermoforming process. Many suppliers may assume you know what they mean when their quote says things like “temperature-controlled production tooling” or “renwood prototype tooling,” and many customers won’t ask for an explanation.
There are a few factors to consider when deciding on the best type of thermoforming tooling for a project, such as material compatibility, production quantity and part size.
Through its 3-stage plastic thermoforming process, Joslyn Manufacturing designs and builds tooling to ensure your thermoforming products are crafted from the best molds and save you time and money.
Thermoforming tooling is created out of:
The finest tooling for thermoformed products is a temperature-controlled mold machined from a block of aluminum. Products made with aluminum tooling are dimensionally more consistent and stable. Tolerances can be held to industry standards. Also, plates can be made with small vacuum holes along a detail area to evacuate air. Because porosity is minimal, products can be crafted with more detail and texture.
This tooling can be less expensive than machined aluminum, yet produces consistent parts with minimal warping. Cast aluminum requires more vacuum holes, however, which limits texture choices.
For pre-production samples or very short production runs, molds made from engineered composites are the most affordable. They’re also the easiest to modify as you fine-tune prototypes. Parts made from engineered composites can help test the design and refine forming techniques.
Best for prototyping and small production runs, renwood is a high-density polyurethane modeling board that:
- Is easy to machine
- Features dimensional stability
- Is moderately priced (less expensive than aluminum, more expensive than pine/wood)
The Right Tooling Depends on the Material of Your Finished Product
Prototype tooling may be made from wood, fiberglass or composites, which is easy and less costly to modify. Production tooling is typically crafted from aluminum, which ensures better consistency during long production runs. Prototype tooling often does not produce as much part detail as production tooling (think of wood tooling vs. aluminum tooling).
Compared to tooling for injection molded parts, tools for thermoformed parts are simpler to update or redesign. Replaceable inserts in the mold offer flexibility so you can vary styling features or produce different models in a product line.
Tooling used for thermoforming can easily be changed to create different configurations or models in a product line. Replaceable inserts can add new styling features, logos, openings or other variations. That flexibility also means it’s simple to modify tooling when it’s time to redesign or update your thermoformed products.
What Thermoforming Tooling Is Best?
Not sure what thermoforming tooling is best for your application and budget? Take a look at our reference guide for the most common types of thermoforming tools.
Joslyn creates thermoforming tooling in-house to ensure the highest quality at a lower cost. Joslyn thermoforming experts will consider all the details of your product when designing tooling, including:
- Draft angles –to remove parts smoothly from the mold
- Undercuts – which can vary by gauge of plastic
- Corners –including blending radii and preventing thinning of material
- Holes and cutouts – some of which can be designed into tooling to minimize trimming later
Learn more about the different types of thermoforming or the thermoforming materials we work with by contacting Joslyn today.