Thermoforming is a versatile process in the realm of plastic manufacturing, where a thermoplastic sheet is heated until it reaches a pliable state. It is then shaped using a mold and cooled to create the final product. This method is particularly effective for large-scale production due to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, it’s worth noting that thermoforming may not always yield high-precision results, and certain material properties could be altered during the process.

History of Thermoforming

Thermoforming boasts a rich history, dating back to the 19th century with the invention of celluloid, one of the first thermoplastics. While early applications were limited, the 1930s saw a turning point with the development of roll-fed thermoforming machines. This innovation, credited to C.B. Strauch, allowed for faster production of items like ice cube trays and toys, paving the way for the widespread use of thermoforming in packaging and beyond.

Types of Thermoforming

Vacuum Forming: This process involves the use of air suction to adhere the plastic sheet to the mold, creating a seamless, non-porous material.

vacuum thermoforming process

Pressure Forming

Pressure Forming: This technique employs additional pressure to fortify materials, making it ideal for crafting thinner components.

pressure thermoforming process

Plug Assist Forming

Plug Assist Forming: Here, inserts or ‘plugs’ are used to push the material into specific areas of the mold, resulting in precise geometries upon cooling.

plug-assisted thermoforming process

Twin Sheet Thermoforming

Twin Sheet Thermoforming: This method utilizes two hot plates—one stationary and one mobile—to thermoform two symmetrical faces simultaneously.

twin-sheet thermoforming process

Thermoforming Applications

The applications of thermoforming are vast and extend beyond traditional plastic products. They encompass specialized fields such as lighting equipment casingsbathtubsshower traysflower potssignage, vending machineswater tanksmotorcycle accessoriesautomotive and aircraft interiorsprotective helmets, and more. Thermoforming is also employed in the production of blister packaging, including bubble wrap.