Image Credit: Tammy Sagastume | Marc | Season Group
Thermoforming services involve placing a sheet of heated thermoplastic material onto a mold and then applying pressure or vacuum to conform the sheet to the mold. Thermoforming is used to create molded parts for, among other things, packaging, protective equipment, trays and containers, and automobile parts. Thermoforming service companies provide thermoforming services for low and/or high volume production of a product or component for a fee.
Plastic Thermoforming. Video Credit: Society of Manufacturing Engineers
Types of Thermoforming Services
Types of services include
- Thin gauge thermoforming involves thinner materials (.005 -.030 inches). This process is generally used for packaging.
Heavy gauge thermoforming uses thicker materials (.06 inches or thicker).
- Vacuum forming- A vacuum pressure is used to form a sheet of metal around a mold. For best results, it is important to heat the metal until it begins to sag before applying the vacuum.
- Pressure forming- Pressure forming is best used when fine detail in surface texture or undercuts are needed. This process is similar to vacuum forming in that a vacuum pressure is applied to the mold side, then pneumatic pressure is applied to the top side of the part.
- Twin sheet forming- Twin sheet forming produces hollow parts by bringing together two heated sheets of metal.
- Billow forming- Billow forming is a process which applies to the cavity of the mold. The heated material is forced to balloon before it is pulled by the vacuum to the surface of the mold. This allows for a more uniform material thickness.
Plug assist- Plug assist uses a plug to press down on the clamped material to help with even distribution of the material when the draw is deep.
An animated description of thermoforming technologies can be found at the Gregstrom Corporation.
Service capabilities are distinguished based on material thickness and part size.
Material thickness- Defines the thickness of the material before forming
Part size- Defines the largest dimension of the part
Thermoforming service providers may offer a number of additional services.
- Design assistance is available to assist with concepts, manufacturing costs, techniques, and material considerations.
- Various types of molding are available based on the size and production volume of the part.
- Machining removes material through milling, turning, drilling, and other processes.
- Hot stamping is available for molded parts.