Drape forming is a highly specialised process, typically used for plastic components where a gentle curve or shaping is required. It’s imperative to have the right equipment to hand, as well as following the proper drape forming process to ensure the finished products are up to the required standard.

This particular method of production is generally adopted for large components, as well as thick section materials. One of the biggest advantages of drape forming is that the thickness of the material can be maintained, meaning no weaknesses arise as it is curved around the mould.

Selecting the right material

Certain materials are more accustomed to drape forming than others. Acrylic one of the most commonly used, although other plastics such as ABS, polystyrene and polycarbonate also have the necessary qualities needed for drape forming.

The type of material will depend on what the drape-formed part will be used for. Bath panels, for example, are commonly made from polystyrene, ABS or acrylic, while polycarbonate is better accustomed to providing plastic windscreens.

It’s possible to create deep draw components with the aid of drape forming. Again, this will have a bearing on the type of material used and the temperature it will need to be heated to.

Having the best drape forming equipment

The standard of equipment used during the drape forming process will have a considerable impact on the quality of the finished product. Moulding ovens are typically used, which are heated to a certain temperature to allow the plastic to become pliable.

Once heated, the plastic can then be spread over a two-dimensional male mould. Any curves that are needed to complete the shape are generally held down using clamped edges.

It’s important to choose a provider that can tackle a number of different sizes of drape-moulded products. Whether it’s a bath panel that’s required or a sheet of curved material for an unusually-shaped wall, having the capacity to cope with various projects is key. This will depend on the size of the facility, the tooling materials and moulds the provider has at their disposal, two factors well worth looking into before making a selection.

Keeping costs down

The main challenge is to ensure the shape is formed in one particular direction, which will keep quality at a premium while minimising costs during the drape forming process.

Tooling costs are very economical as when it comes to drape forming acrylic and other plastics, the cost of tools needed to carry out the process are relatively low.

This means the method can be used for relatively low levels of production, making it easier to provide smaller production quantities more economically.

Need help? Ask the drape forming experts…

For more information on drape forming or how it can be used to meet your company’s needs, get in touch with our experienced team on 01482 646464.