Thermoforming is a manufacturing process that produces high-quality parts from plastic sheets in a range of sizes and thicknesses. Depending on the part size and the production quantity, thermoforming can cost significantly less than either injection molding or blow molding, two popular plastic manufacturing techniques. Cost is important, of course, but product designers also need to consider flexibility, tooling, quality, and assembly. All four are advantages of plastic thermoforming.
Thermoforming supports the use of many different plastic materials, and in a wide variety of colors, textures, and finishes. Examples include ABS, acrylic/PVC, HIPS, HDPE, LDPE, PP, PETG, and polycarbonate. Plastic thermoforming also supports the production of strong plastic parts, which provides designers with alternatives to more expensive materials such as metals. As a heavy-gauge thermoformer, Gregstrom supports sheet sizes up to 60” x 120” (.040” – .500” thick).
Thermoforming tools typically cost less than the tooling that’s used in other plastic fabrication processes. In addition to machined and cast aluminum, thermoforming tools can be made of wood, epoxy, and other low-cost materials. Lower tooling costs are important, but cost isn’t the only advantage. By using textured thermoforming tools and plastic sheets in custom colors, product designers can eliminate the need for painting parts. Non-metal tools that are faster to produce can also result in shorter wait times for tooling.
Thermoformed parts don’t exhibit the sink or gate marks, porosity, and other surface imperfections that are common to other plastics manufacturing processes. In addition to a flawless finish, thermoforming supports fine details such as clean lines, tight corners, and textured surfaces. Thermoformed part tolerances are a function of multiple factors, and well-designed parts can meet demanding requirements. Subsequent operations such as plastic routing produce clean edges and burr-free finishes.
Thermoforming also supports final product assembly. For example, this digital taxi media display integrates with lights, electronics, and metal hardware. Similarly, this plastic taxi top supports mounting to the vehicle’s metal rooftop with fasteners. Applications for thermoforming also include medical instrument case assemblies with a thermoformed base, a clear plastic cover, and a latch, handle, and hinges.
Choose Thermoformed Parts from Gregstrom
Gregstrom is an experienced plastic thermoformer that adds value to your operations. In addition to high-quality, heavy-gauge thermoforming, we provide CNC and robotic routing, assembly and testing, and plastic finishing. Tooling, design assistance, and quality assurance are also part of our capabilities. Is thermoforming the right choice for your next plastics project? Learn more. Contact Gregstrom.