Thermoforming is the process of heating a sheet of plastic material to a pliable temperature, then forming it against a mold where it cools and solidifies into its finished shape. This process is attractive for many applications due to the low tooling and set-up costs. Minimum order quantities also typically compare very favorably to injection molding.
Thermoforming is commonly divided into two categories: vacuum forming and pressure forming. In vacuum forming, the hot plastic sheet is pulled against the contours of the mold by vacuum pressure. Since pressure is only applied to one side of the sheet, vacuum forming is typically selected for parts that are relatively simple in design and that do not require deep texture. In pressure forming, additional air pressure is utilized to push the plastic sheet against the mold. The combined pressure on both sides of the sheet produces a rich, molded-in texture and allows for complex part geometry that cannot be replicated by vacuum forming. If your part requirements involve undercuts, tight radii, or especially sharp texture, then pressure forming is typically the right choice.
Whether you are sourcing a simple vacuum-formed dome or an intricate pressure-formed cover, Formed Plastics has the equipment and expertise to handle the job. Our state-of-the-art thermoforming machines can handle sheet sizes up to 60" wide and 96" long, with thickness ranging from .0625" to 375." Our machines are equipped with optical heat sensors and micro-process controls, which allow for optimal cycle times, consistent heat distribution, and unparalleled control over the quality of the formed part. We also specialize in thermoforming clear material for difficult see-through applications.
Formed Plastics also has the capability to perform the secondary trimming operations necessary for thermoformed parts. From simple hand routing and drilling processes to precision 5-axis machining, secondary operations are performed in parallel to the forming of the parts in an effort to minimize labor and keep your costs down. Finished parts will approach injection-molding appearance at a fraction of the start-up cost.
The look of your finished part can be enhanced through a variety of techniques, including the use of custom-colored material, molded-in texture, painting, and silk-screening. Our engineering team is happy to advise on the most cost-effective method of accomplishing whatever aesthetic upgrades you may have in mind. We can assemble all required inserts and hardware, and supply you with a finished part ready to be installed in your application.
Commonly thermoformed materials include Kydex, polycarbonate, ABS, acrylic and PETG. Sheets are typically acquired in custom colors, sizes and thicknesses to help control costs and to provide the look and strength needed for any application.
- 94V-0, 94V-2 and 94HB flame-retardant
- Conductive grades
We work closely with both material manufacturers and our customers to ensure selection of the most appropriate and cost-effective material for the application.
If you are new to the thermoforming process and need our assistance in taking your design from concept to production, Formed Plastics is uniquely ready to help. Our engineering and manufacturing experts are available to provide whatever degree of design and engineering assistance is required.