Learn the Answers to Thermoforming Questions
Plastic materials are used in the manufacturing of products around the US and the world, but most people are unfamiliar with the process of creating plastic products. Thermoforming is the industry term for heating plastic sheets into moldable, flexible forms so that various products can be made.
Our heavy gauge thermoforming company is here to answer all the frequently asked questions that manufacturers and consumers have about the thermoforming process.
Heavy Gauge Thermoforming Frequently Asked Questions
What is thermoforming?
Answer: Thermoforming is a plastic manufacturing process used for the creation of plastic parts and components for products. Plastic thermoforming is done by heating a plastic sheet so it is pliable and able to be formed into the shapes needed to create parts and components for the manufacturing of a variety of products.
What is the process of thermoforming?
Answer: The process of thermoforming consists of the following steps:
- The thermoplastic material is heated in an oven.
- Once heated to the target temperature, the plastic is placed over a mold.
- The pliable plastic sheet is adhered to the mold either through a vacuuming technique, air pressure technique, a plug assist, or a combination of all three– after which, the plastic takes the form of a 3D object.
- The formed plastic cools and hardens, allowing for it to be removed from the mold and trimmed.
- The free-standing, 3D object is now ready to be painted, labeled, stamped, die cut, or enhanced in whatever way is necessary to create the final product.
Which is better, vacuum forming or pressure forming?
Answer: In order to shape the heated plastic sheet into a mold, it has to adhere and be sealed to the mold form. There are two ways to do this, through the use of either air pressure or vacuuming. In order to determine which method is best, it depends on the needs of the specific product.
- Vacuum forming: When a product does not require a lot of detail or aesthetic features, vacuum forming is a great choice. Vacuum forming is fast and affordable and is ideal for small production runs, large but lightweight products, and objects that do not require intricate detailing.
- Pressure forming: When the aesthetic details of a product are crucially important, pressure forming is the best choice for production. Pressure forming allows for intricate details and textures, sharp corners, engraved logos, and other stylistic techniques that are not possible to create through vacuum forming alone. Like vacuum forming, pressure forming is an affordable manufacturing choice for low to large-volume productions, but has the added benefit of uniformity and durability.
Q: Why use plastic thermoforming?
Answer: Plastic thermoforming has several benefits when compared to other plastic materials or materials like metal or fiber preforms.
Some of the many benefits of using plastic thermoforming to manufacture parts and components for products are:
- Large capacity to create objects at a lower cost.
- Lightweight materials.
- Strength, versatility, and durability of the product materials.
- High level of details, textures, and finishes at a lower cost than injection molding.
- Advanced tooling procedures to form multiple components of a product.
- Equipment and tools for thermoforming are cost-efficient.
- Rapid production of products.
- The ability for branding and other design aesthetics.
Q: How is thermoforming different from injection molding?
Answer: With injection molding, the heated plastic materials are injected into a mold directly to form its shape. The final products that are created through plastic thermoforming vs. injection molding are actually quite similar in quality, but choosing thermoforming has some benefits over injection molding.
When looking at thermoforming vs. injection molding, the advantages of plastic thermoforming are:
- Faster production process
- Parts are easier to adapt and modify
Q: What’s the difference between heavy-gauge thermoforming and thin-gauge thermoforming?
Answer: The difference between heavy-gauge vs. thin-gauge thermoforming comes down to the dimensions of the plastic sheets used for production.
Thin-gauge thermoforming, also known as “roll-fed,” uses thin plastic sheets that are within < .125” to < 3 mm in thickness and are fed using sheets from plastic rolls. In contrast, heavy-gauge thermoforming, known alternatively as “cut sheet,” uses materials that are .060 – .375″ or 1.5 – 9.5 mm thick.
Apart from the thickness of plastic sheets used and the type of equipment used, thin-gauge thermoforming is used for medium to high-volume production, whereas heavy-gauge thermoforming is used for small to medium-volume production.
Q: What is the best plastic for heavy-gauge thermoforming?
Answer: High Impact Polystyrene (HIP) is easy to manufacture, has a high impact resistance, is cost-efficient, and highly customizable plastic that is ideal for heavy-gauge thermoforming.
Q: Can you thermoform High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)?
Answer: Thermoplastics such as polystyrene (PS) and polypropylene (PP) are some of the plastics often used in the thermoforming process, however, HDPE is typically not processed via the thermoforming process, despite being used in the packaging and manufacturing industry.
Q: How long does it take to thermoform a part?
Answer: From the approval of the design, creation of the mold, and forming of the piece, to the end of post-production, the thermoforming process for a part takes approximately 45 days from beginning to end.
Q: What industries commonly use heavy-gauge thermoformed parts?
Answer: Due to the versatility and durability of heavy-gauge thermoformed parts and components, the thermoforming process is used by many industries.
Examples of some of the industries that use thermoformed parts are:
- Recreational Vehicles
- Farm Equipment
- Material Handling
- Water Filtration
Thermoforming with Advanced Plastiform, Inc.
For over 30 years of industry experience, Advanced Plastiform, Inc. has served our customers across multiple industries in manufacturing products through the use of our advanced production of heavy-gauge thermoforming materials. Our thermoforming professionals work tirelessly to provide our clients with the very best in vacuum-formed and pressure-formed molding of plastic sheets for the components needed to create products for your company.
Serving customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, or Virginia, contact us today to learn more about how we can customize your plastic parts to help build your products.
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