Thermoforming is a process of heating a thermoplastic sheet to its softening point. The sheet is stretched across a single-sided mold and then manipulated. Then, it cools into the desired shape. The most common methods to get the sheet to conform to its final shape are vacuum-forming, pressure-forming, and mechanical forming. Thermoforming has innumerable applications and can be used by several different industries. Here is a brief overview of thermoforming, its benefits, and its applications.
As like any process, there are several stages of thermoforming. The typical thermoforming process goes through the following stages:
The thermoforming process requires a few pieces of equipment. The forming process needs either pressure formers or vacuum formers. It also requires a three or four-station Rotary Transformer. The secondary operation of the process needs CNC robotic routers. Normally the bed for this piece of equipment does not exceed 60”X 120”. The tooling process requires machine aluminum molds, cast aluminum molds, composite or temporary molds, or male/female molds.
Thermoforming holds many advantages that make it a favorable process over other types of molding. Some of these advantages include:
The thermoforming process offers many benefits to both the manufacturer and end user. Some of these benefits include:
One of the best aspects of thermoforming is its versatility. This feature can be seen in the vast number of materials that can be used for the process. Each material has applications and functions for which it works best.
The thermoforming process can be used in a wide variety of applications as well. Some of the most common ones include but are not limited to:
Typical tolerances for thermoforming processes include:
Typical parameters for thin-gauge thermoforming tooling include:
For the thermoforming process to be completed accurately the following general practices should always be followed:
In essence, thermoplastics are the final products that result from the thermoforming process. A major benefit of thermoplastics is their tolerance to repeated activation. So, it can be reheated and reshaped several times. This characteristic also makes thermoplastics recyclable. Further, due to the chemistry involved, thermoplastic materials exhibit the same characteristics as rubber and can have the same strength as aluminum. The temperature tolerance of thermoplastic materials varies. Some can retain their properties up to 100 degrees F, while others can withstand temperatures up to 600 degrees F. Most thermoplastics have no known solvent at room temperature and also function well as both electrical and thermal insulation. They can also be electrically conductive if metal or carbon is added.
Thermoplastics have a long history, dating back to the mid-1800s. They were originally used as a substitute for ivory and have grown to become a part of everyday life today. Some common places where you can see thermoplastics include:
Thermoforming and vacuum forming are closely related. In fact, vacuum forming is a type of thermoforming. However, there are some important differences. So, it is important to be able to distinguish between the two. Vacuum forming requires some additional processes that cause the plastic to conform to the mold during forming. Vacuum forming has more restrictive uses as well. It is normally reserved for applications that use shallow plastic parts that need to be formed into cavities. Other important information to know about vacuum forming includes:
There are fewer materials that are suitable for vacuum forming applications. The best materials for this purpose include:
Vacuum forming is ideal for some specific applications because the vacuum-formed components can replace complex fabricated sheet metals, fiberglass, or plastic injection molding. Some common places where you can see evidence of vacuum forming include:
Despite all of its positive attributes, vacuum forming does have some drawbacks as well. Some of the most common problems include:
Thermoset plastics are synthetic materials that strengthen when they are heated. Although they are closely related to thermoplastics, there are some distinct differences between the two. Unlike thermoplastics, thermosets cannot be reheated and remolded with success. Characteristics of thermoset plastics include:
Thermoset plastics can be created in a number of ways, including compression, compression-injection, and injection molded. Regardless of the creation method, heat is needed to mold the material into place.
Thermosets are known for their strong, permanent bonds that are not reversible. Because of the characteristic, the products that are made through this process can be found in many common places. Some examples include:
Common materials used for thermosets include:
Thermoforming and its related processes and products hold an important place in everyday life. Wherever you look you can see evidence of these processes and can understand how thermoforming benefits our lives and society in general. To discuss more about Thermoforming services, contact the experts at SealWerks today.