Joslyn Blog

Pressure Forming: What It Is, How It Works & Why It Matters

injection moldingThe thermoforming process offers many advantages over other methods such as rotational and injection molding. Thermoforming can use one of two processes: vacuum forming and pressure forming.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the pressure forming process, its advantages and if it’s the right thermoforming technology for your next project. 

What Is Pressure Forming?

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. 

How Does Pressure Forming Work?

Pressure forming is similar to conventional vacuum forming in that material is formed against a contoured surface using a vacuum to draw the material against the mold. By modifying the tooling and forming equipment, pressure forming applies significant positive air pressure to the backside of the part being formed. This produces a dramatic increase in the pressure applied against the surface area of the mold, resulting in precise surface details.

Advantages of Pressure Forming

Why choose pressure forming? Here are a few key advantages:

  • Pressure-formed parts can be made with sharp, crisp surface details and features that rival injection molding.
  • The process enables the plastic to pick up grained surface details and attain smoother surface finishes.
  • Logos, text and images can be formed with precision comparable to the injection molding process.
  • Tooling and piece costs are affordable compared to other processes.

Vacuum Forming vs. Pressure Forming

While vacuum forming works best on products that are simple and don’t require great detail, pressure forming is the best thermoforming option when aesthetics are important. It’s a cost-efficient alternative to injection molding and produces plastic parts with crisper details and sharper features than vacuum forming.

Pressure forming plastic works well for many products, such as:

  • Parts, panels and enclosures that require sharp corners and precise surface cosmetics
  • Bezels and fronts that require durability
  • Exterior panels that require openings for gauges and controls, while remaining rugged and attractive
  • Three-dimensional housings and enclosures, such as those used for office and medical equipment, electrical devices and commercial-use products
  • Doors, hatches, covers and moveable panels that face the user and require durability, sharp detail and an attractive exterior finish

Since the pressure forming process is somewhat unique, it offers advantages that are not available in straight vacuum forming. Customers needing pressure-formed parts should be involved in the design and engineering of the part, as well as the tooling required to produce it. An understanding of design limitations can help both the thermoformer and the end user achieve greater satisfaction from the product.

There are several end-use considerations to review:

  • Will your part be required to bear weight?
  • How important are the aesthetics of the finished part?
  • Will the part be used internally or as part of the exterior of a product?
  • Will the finished part meet the end user’s specifications?
  • How might expansion of the part when exposed to heat affect the final assembly?
  • What alternative design features can accommodate the process?

Achieve Precision and Detail

At Joslyn Manufacturing, we can take your vision and turn it into reality. To learn more about pressure forming, pressure forming plastic products or the plastic molding process, contact us today.

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Topics: Pressure Forming, Pressure Forming Plastic


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