At Advanced Plastiform, Inc., we help our clients determine the best method of manufacturing plastic that will achieve the most accurate final product as well as a short lead time and a low unit price. One of the methods we use to achieve these goals is pressure forming. Our thermoforming company in North Carolina wrote an article about the everyday products made from vacuum forming to help our clients gain a feel for what kind of outcomes they could expect and how, despite popular belief, it’s still widely used in custom plastic manufacturing, and we wanted to offer a similar article related to pressure forming. This way you’ll have a better understanding of its versatility and durability when it comes to choosing your preferred method of manufacturing for your own custom plastics.
What Is Pressure Forming?
Pressure forming is a method of thermoforming in which a sheet of plastic is heated so that it’s malleable and flexible, then fit over a custom aluminum mold. Within the mold are small vents, and once the plastic is clamped in place a vacuum is turned on, with the suction coming from the vents. At the same time, a high pressure hose blasts air from above onto the plastic so it’s pushing it more tightly against the mold while the suction from below pulls it down.
Pressure forming exerts about three times more air pressure than vacuum forming, so the end result is a much more detailed, precise shape than that which could be formed with a vacuum alone.
The Benefits of Pressure Forming
As with any type of thermoforming, pressure forming offers a low tooling investment and rapid product development. Thermoplastics are lightweight, highly durable, and versatile, so you can feel confident that any custom plastics you manufacturer will hold up to the wear and tear you need.
Pressure forming offers several advantages over both injection molding and vacuum forming. Compared to vacuum forming, pressure forming can achieve a high degree of surface detail and design, including embossed logos and patterns. Whereas vacuum molding results in rounded corners and minimal detailing, products made with pressure forming can have sharp angles and edges with little to no draft and intricate details.
Compared to injection molding, the end results are similar, but there’s a shorter lead time and a lower upfront cost because tooling is less expensive with thermoforming. Additionally, it’s easier to manufacture large plastic components and products through pressure forming than injection molding. Often, pressure forming is used as a less expensive alternative to injection molding.
Disadvantages of Pressure Forming
Pressure forming is precise and accurate, but it can’t be used in all situations. Products and components of varying thickness and small parts with lots of detail are still generally better off being made through injection molding. Additionally, holes, slits, and apertures aren’t able to be added into the molding process and require a secondary finishing step.
Products Made Using Pressure Forming
Whereas with vacuum forming, we see more large products with rounded corners, bends, and straight areas, the precision of pressure forming allows a wider variety of products.
- Door panels and consoles
- Battery casing
- Seatbelt clips and buckle covers
- Lighting covers
- Luggage and bicycle racks
- Medical equipment enclosures and housing for electronics
- Single use plastic tools
- Laboratory equipment
- Components used in CT scanners, MRIs, and ultrasound machines;
- Medical cart panels and trays
- Incubators and newborn bassinets
Commercial Air and Water Filtration
Pressure forming is often used to manufacture the large grid systems used in both commercial air and water filtration systems. Designed for large commercial spaces, these filters can remove pollutants from the air and contaminants from water, but they require precision and accuracy to be effective.
Technology and Telecommunications
While vacuum forming is used for some types of electronics, pressure forming is more widely used for:
- Equipment panels
- Screen and monitor bezels
- Kiosks and vending machine enclosures and casing
Schedule a Consultation for a Free Quote on Custom Plastics Manufacturing Today
If you’d like to learn more about pressure forming plastics or whether it’s the right method of manufacturing your custom parts and products, we can help. Reach out to our team today at [phone] or fill out the form below to get a free quote!