Thermoforming is a manufacturing process most commonly used as a packaging solution for consumer products. It is also used to manufacture larger customized plastic products.
Did You Know?
Thermoformed packaging proves to be ideal for the medical industry, as it offers the highest level of protection, along with the benefits like durability, uniform sealing, acting as a sterile barrier, and easy usage.
Thermoforming is a process that involves heating a plastic sheet to the point at which it is capable of being shaped, bent, or drawn out, then stretching it into a mold, and finally cooling the same to attain the desired shape. The excess material is trimmed and can be mixed along with the unused plastic and formed again into sheets. The shaped part is released. In this way, customized plastic products can be formed. Thermoforming is considered to be one of the most versatile methods for the production of packaging materials. Moreover, it is believed to be one of the oldest methods of making useful articles. It has been observed that plastic thermoforming plays an important role in the modern industry and commercial enterprises. There are different groups of processes involved in thermoforming, such as vacuum forming, pressure forming, drape forming, mechanical forming, match-mold forming, and billow forming. These are basically, different methods of forcing the sheets to adjust to the mold and attain the desired shape.
Thermoforming can be divided into two categories; namely, thin-gauge thermoforming and thick-gauge thermoforming. In thin-gauge thermoforming, sheets less than 0.060 inches (1.5 mm) are used in the manufacture of food, medical, and retail packaging, such as, blisters, disposable cups, containers, lids, meat and poultry trays, egg cartons, etc. In thick-gauge thermoforming, sheets greater than 0.120 inches (3 mm) are used for the manufacture of permanent or industrial products such as dunnage trays, refrigerator liners, plastic pallets, guards, enclosures, radomes, etc.
➺This manufacturing process makes use of plastic sheets that are higher in quality and have good durability as compared to the ones used in other methods.
➺This process is known to have a good speed when compared to other manufacturing methods i. e. once the designs are confirmed, the thermoformed parts can be ready within a month which is not possible in other methods. This speed in production, in turn enables delivery on time.
➺This process enables the manufacture of a wide range of custom-made products since it is believed to be the only method by which plastic sheets can be molded into bigger objects. This process also has a wider design scope.
➺The plastic products manufactured by this process are able to meet the requirements of companies that demand highly specific dimensions for the same. Moreover, they are quite adaptive to the design needs of customers.
➺Almost all types of plastic can be used in this process, which is not the case with the other methods.
➺The costs involved in tooling and engineering are quite low, which is another great advantage over other methods as it makes this process ideal for prototype development and low-volume production.
➺During this process, the plastic sheets that are in a pliable state can break due to excessive stretching under certain temperatures. This in turn leads to wastage and about 20% more use of plastic that results in higher process costs.
➺Due to the use of higher-quality plastic sheets, this method is costly (about 50 % more) as compared to other methods.
➺In this process, only one side of part is defined by the mold.
➺Here, the parts that include sharp bends and corners are not easy to produce and internal stresses are common.
Even though thermoforming is a costly process, it is quite popular due to the production of higher-quality products in a wide range of sizes and designs.