What Is Thermoforming, and How Is the Process Used in Product Manufacturing?

November 3, 2021 9:57 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Thermoforming is a plastic fabrication technique that’s used to create products for a variety of industries.

Read on for an introduction to the process and benefits of plastic thermoforming.

Plastic thermoforming

In basic terms, thermoforming refers to the process of heating a thermoplastic sheet to its softening point where it can be stretched and manipulated over a mold. As the plastic cools, it’s hardened into the desired shape.

Thermoforming can refer to a variety of more specialized plastic fabrication processes including:

  • Vacuum forming: This common technique involves heating plastic and stretching it over a mold using a specialized vacuum. The mold is typically open, and the force used to push the heated plastic over the form is limited to around 15 psi.
  • Pressure forming: The pressure forming method also involves a vacuum, but the positive air pressure generates three to four times the forming pressure of vacuum forming. This allows fine details, including surface textures, to be formed on the mold easily and without added expense.
  • Twin sheet forming: This process involves two molds and two sheets of plastic. As the sheets are heated and formed into the desired shapes, a jet of air is injected between them to fuse them. Twin sheet forming is ideal for creating hollow products that require unique upper and lower shapes.

What kinds of products can be made by thermoforming?

Plastic thermoforming and its related processes are used for a variety of applications. Industries as varied as the automotive market, the aerospace industry and even the medical field use thermoformed plastic products. It’s especially effective for mass production of packaging products including:

  • Blister packs
  • Material and handling trays and covers
  • Packaging inserts
  • Pop displays
  • Retail clamshell packaging

What are some of the benefits of thermoforming?

There are many advantages of thermoforming that make it a more favorable plastic fabrication technique over other molding methods. Some of the benefits include:

  • High-quality products: With thermoforming, you get the same quality results as you would with an injection molding process, but you get them much more quickly and cheaply.
  • Rapid prototype development: Creating and refining a prototype can be time consuming—not just from a design perspective but also in terms of production. Thermoforming is a quick process that allows for rapid prototype development, helping manufacturers get their product to the market at a quicker pace.
  • Short lead times: Getting ready to do a full-scale production run of a product? The thermoforming process accommodates short lead times. In many cases, you’ll get the finished products within just four to six weeks.
  • Flexibility: Thermoforming is a flexible process that provides manufacturers with a wide range of colors and finishes, offering flexibility in terms of design. Manufacturers can choose between self-colored or paintable plastics, and there are extensive options for finishing, patterns and textures.

Looking to make magic with plastic? No matter what type of product you’re making, using the right plastic fabrication techniques makes all the difference in the end result you’re able to achieve. Contact D&D Plastics today to learn more about thermoforming and other plastic production methods.

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