Form Tight, Inc. Plastic Thermoforming Services and Processes
Plastic Thermoforming is the process of heating a thermoplastic material in order to shape and mold it. The thermoplastic material is typically in the form of a sheet or film. The thermoplastic sheet is heated in an oven, or thermoforming machine, to specific temperatures depending on the type of material until the material becomes malleable. It is then stretched or molded into the desired shape. Countless applications that require thermoforming exist including the production of counter trays and product and food packaging. There are two types of plastic thermoforming processes: Thin-gauge and Thick-gauge.
Thin-gauge thermoforming is primarily used to manufacture containers, lids, trays, blisters, clamshells, and other products for the food, medical, and nearly all retail industries. The thin-gauge material is usually either roll-fed or inline extruded, most commonly used to create rigid or semi-rigid packaging. Common types of packaging include clamshell packaging and blister packaging. Thin-gauge parts are designed to be disposable or recyclable.
Thick-gauge, or heavy, thermoforming is used to produce parts as diverse as vehicle door and dash panels, refrigerator liners, utility vehicle beds, and plastic pallets. As opposed to thin-gauge thermoforming process, thick-gauge thermoplastic sheets are primarily used as permanent structural parts or components. Both types utilize similar basic methods. Heavy gauge parts are used to make kiosks, automobiles, medical equipment, shower enclosures, and electrical equipment. Heavy-gauge parts, unlike most thin-gauge thermoformed parts, are often hand-worked to final shape after forming by trimming or additional drilling, cutting, or finishing, depending on the specific desired outcome of the product.
Thermoplastic materials commonly used in the plastic thermoforming process include PET, PVC, ABS, Polystyrene, polyethylene and PLA. Different attributes and characteristics are available to accommodate specific needs of individual applications. Some of the characteristics include chemical resistance, weatherability. Their properties vary in strength, formability, toughness, cost and aesthetic qualities. Thermoplastic parts are used in industries ranging from electronics, food and beverage, medical, to OEM parts, and retail and a countless number of unique applications.