When thermoforming plastics, there are multiple variables that need to be in place to get the desired finished result. It’s essential that the part is not only accurate to the initial design, but they also have to be consistent from piece to piece. One of the biggest concerns in plastic manufacturing is poor product detail, typically, the finished piece isn’t as crisp or defined as the prototype. Rounded instead of sharp corners, webbing, and poor wall distribution can be detrimental to an entire project, but with as much planning that goes into manufacturing, problems can still happen. Our thermoforming company in North Carolina is sharing how to troubleshoot poor part detail and how we avoid these problems to begin with.
Plastic Temperature is too Low
The most common issue when there is poor product detail is that the plastic temperature is too low. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest to correct. In order to thermoform plastic, the sheets are heated until they are pliable, then they are fitted around the mold. If the plastic is too cold or isn’t consistently the right temperature, when the vacuum is turned on, the sheet won’t have the pliability necessary to draw tightly against the shape and get the necessary detail.
Correcting Low Plastic Temperature
Increasing the temperature of the plastic and ensuring consistent temperature can be solved by preventing any drafts in the heating process and adding clamp rail heaters.
In vacuum forming, the plastic is heated and laid over a metal mold or tool that has vent holes in it. When a vacuum is turned on, the vents suction air from between the tool and plastic, drawing it tightly against the mold. If the end result doesn’t have the desired detail, the issue may be that there isn’t enough vacuum suction power to get the plastic into the angles and curves to achieve the right shape.
Correcting Insufficient or Inconsistent Vacuum
To fix this issue, you’ll need to improve how the plastic comes in contact with the mold and ensure proper negative air flow. This can be done by:
- Checking for vacuum leaks
- Cleaning out existing vacuum vents
- Adding additional vents or vacuum holes
- Using a ring assist or moat to create a proper seal around the perimeter of the component
Incorrect Thermoforming Method
While vacuum forming is both time efficient and cost effective, this method is unable to get the level of detail and precision some parts and components may need. It’s ideal for large pieces that are curved rather than angled simply because the pressure isn’t there to get the high levels of detail.
Correcting Incorrect Thermoforming Method
For sharp angles and details, similar to what can be achieved by injection molding, you would need pressure forming. In addition to using a vacuum to suction out air between the mold and tool, the plastic is hit with blasts of highly pressurized air to force it down against the mold and achieve a more precise result.
Poor or Incorrect Mold Design
If higher heat, added vents, and even switching the method of thermoforming is not getting the proper results you’re looking for, the issue may be the mold design itself. For example, a male mold with a convex shape may be less expensive to fabricate, but it can’t get the intricate details or sharp angles you may need. You may need to redesign the mold to have greater draft angles or choose a female mold in which the plastic is laid down within the shape which allows for better details.
Correcting Poor or Incorrect Mold Design
When the mold itself is the problem, you may need to redesign the mold, which can cause delays and added costs, but you’ll have a better result for your finished products.
Contact Us for Accurate Thermoformed Plastics
If you’re in need of thermoformed custom plastics and need highly accurate, flawlessly detailed components as well as low per-unit pricing and a short lead time, reach out to Advanced Plastiform, Inc., today. To learn more about how we can help you reduce your costs and improve your quality, schedule a quote. We work with all types of industries in North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.