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Which Thermoforming Technology Is Right for You?

Thermoformed Plastic TrayWhether it’s, vacuum forming, pressure forming or any other type of thermoforming application, quality plastic molded components require proper thermoforming technology.

Thermoform Tooling

All custom thermoforming projects begin with the right tooling. Tooling is the most important factor in manufacturing a quality thermoformed product. The right tooling can produce crisp lines, edges, texture and other detailing that stays consistent from piece to piece.

Thermoform tooling is created out of:

Machined Aluminum

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.

Cast Aluminum

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.

Engineered Composites

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.

Vacuum Forming

Compared to other plastic forming processes, vacuum forming offers many advantages, including lower tooling costs, cost-efficiency for smaller production runs and the ability to produce large, lightweight parts with thin walls. For the greatest flexibility in design and production of custom molded plastics, choose vacuum forming.

To vacuum form a plastic product:

  • A sheet of plastic material is heated in an oven.
  • The heated sheet is either pulled over or pushed into the mold with the help of a vacuum.
  • After the formed plastic cools, it’s removed from the mold and trimmed.

Pressure Forming

When aesthetics are critical, pressure forming is recommended. The pressure forming process creates plastic parts with detailed textures and crisp features. Pressure forming can produce plastic parts that look injection molded, especially when you have more complex designs that include detailed textures, and sharp, crisp, formed-in features. Pressure-formed plastic can be painted, screen-printed, hot stamped or given other finishes.

To pressure form a plastic product:

  • A sheet of plastic material is heated in an oven.
  • The heated sheet is set on a mold.
  • A vacuum pulls air out of the mold, pulling the sheet against the mold. At the same time, air pressure is applied to the back of the sheet, pushing it tightly into the mold. These twin forces give pressure-formed products crisper details and sharper features.
  • After the formed plastic cools and hardens, it’s removed from the mold and trimmed.

Choose the Right Thermoforming Technology for Your Needs

Now that you know the different types of plastic forming technologies, you are one step closer to bringing your vision to life. Whether you need to produce a traditional item or something cutting-edge, Joslyn Manufacturing can make that vision a reality using advanced thermoforming technologies for both thin-gauge and heavy-gauge materials. We will work with you to ensure consistent, high-quality products that meet your specifications, delivered on time at the best cost.

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