When you’re manufacturing plastic products, there are a lot of different ways to get the job done. Thermoforming—the art of heating and shaping a plastic sheet on a mold—is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to achieve your goals. The process can be done manually or as part of a large-scale automated procedure. Could thermoforming acrylic domes in Utah be the right way to manufacture your parts? Read on to learn about its advantages and quirks.
Why choose thermoforming?
Thermoforming is performed by heating thin plastic sheets until they become soft and pliable. Then they and the mold are fed through a machine so the plastic conforms to the mold shape. A die tool is used to cut the excess plastic away, which can be recycled for future projects.
This plastic forming process is easy to do, even with large molds and inexpensive materials. They’re often used to create prototypes and display materials. The more products you need, the more likely it will be cheaper to use injection molding or other plastic forming methods. However, for small-scale projects, thermoforming is the fastest and most economical way to go.
Material and design considerations
The type of material you use will naturally have an impact on the final product. If you use cell-cast acrylic sheets, they will have a higher molecular weight. That makes them stronger when formed, but they’re also more difficult to form—they have “elastic memory.” Extruded acrylic sheets have a lower molecular weight, and form easily. They’re also better for detailed products, although sensitive to differences in heating.
When designing a thermoformed product, keep in mind that details can only be formed on one side. You’ll also need to take tolerances (the amount the sheet will expand and contract during heating and cooling) into account, and design around them. Finally, make sure to leave room for draft angles—this is the degree of taper on the mold sidewall, to enable removal.
Thermoform mold design
Your molds can be made out of a variety of materials, including steel, wood, plaster and aluminum. The stronger and more durable your mold material is, the longer it will last. Wood and plaster are good choices for smaller runs, but if you plan to use your mold frequently, choose steel or aluminum.
As you create the mold, keep in mind that it needs to be completely scratch- and blemish-free, or those flaws will end up imprinted in the acrylic. (This is also the reason molds need to be kept free of dust and other debris.)
Finally, you’ll need to make sure there are adequate vacuum holes and slots to ensure appropriate formation.
Ultimately, your thermoforming company will help ensure that your mold and materials will get the results you want out of your domes. Make sure you choose a company that can help you determine you’re choosing the right manufacturing methods. D&D Plastics is happy to help you choose the right way to thermoform acrylic domes in Utah—call us today to get started.
Categorised in: Plastic Thermoforming
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