Thermoforming is a huge part of the service we provide and the term is something you’ll see mentioned regularly across our website. Read on to find out more about exactly what it is, how the process works and what materials are used, the advantages and applications, and our expertise in this very specific area of forming plastic parts and products.
What is thermoforming?
Put simply, the term thermoforming refers to a plastic moulding process where a sheet of plastic is heated to a high temperature and then formed over a mould. The plastic sheet then takes the shape of the mould when it comes into contact with it. The moulding is then normally trimmed to make a useable product.
In addition there are many other differentials in the thermoforming process, including whether the mould is male or female, how intricate the mould is, what finishes are required and also what materials are used.
Materials used for thermoforming
The plastic sheets used for thermoforming are commonly made from HDPE, PP, PMMA, Polycarbonate, HIPS or ABS. Interestingly these plastic sheets are generally of much higher quality and durability than the plastic materials used in other moulding methods.
The advantages of thermoforming
There are a huge amount of benefits associated with choosing thermoforming to make your plastic products other over methods such as rotational and injection moulding.
The two most common advantages that our clients cite are the low costs and exceptionally fast turnaround times; these two benefits make thermoforming ideal for low volume production of custom plastic products and also developing prototypes .
Here are just some of the many advantages of the thermoforming process over other methods:
- Low tooling costs due to usually only needing one mould half
- The quality of injection moulded products but faster
- High speed suitable for JIT (just-in-time) production strategy
- Easier to make larger parts so a wider design scope
- Process and materials optimised for cost effectiveness
- Weight-related cost savings
- In-production product enhancements
- Low cost and fast prototype development
- Flexible and adaptable to customer design needs
- Competitive advantage from flexible tooling design
- Wide choice of self-coloured and paintable plastics
- Extensive options for finishing, patterns and textures
- Short lead times – finished products in just 4-6 weeks
Popular thermoforming applications
Thermoforming is utilised by a variety of different industries for applications such as packaging, automotive parts, trays, agricultural machinery parts, pallets, building products and signs. There is no limit to the huge amount of applications for plastic products that have been thermoformed – in fact one of our most unique orders has been vacuum formed wind turbine parts for the renewable energy sector.
Thermoforming has some exciting process developments that can add value to specific industries / applications. These include sheets with nano-composites and also converting thick sheet applications to composite sheets which results in thinner walled parts and therefore are ideal for weight-sensitive applications. There is also in-mould-labelling which has huge benefits for automotive parts, and research into biodegradable polymers for eco-friendly packaging applications.
Our expertise in thermoforming
This post is just a brief overview of thermoforming and the many advantages over other manufacturing techniques for plastic parts and products. Having spent over 30 years manufacturing plastic products we’ve developed a high level of expertise in the thermoforming process and various associated techniques.
Our knowledge and experience in this specialised area of plastic moulding allows us to determine which methods, materials and finishes are suitable to your needs, and exactly how we can then cater to them in a cost effective and efficient manner.
To find out more about the benefits of thermoforming and to discuss how we could help you with your next project get in touch with us on 01482 646464. We look forward to working with you to make your make your plastic products more cost effective, durable and attractive using thermoforming.