Vacuum forming: the pros and cons

Thermoforming is a way to make and customise plastic and product packaging materials. With thermoforming, a plastic sheet is heated until it can be bent, shaped or moulded. When it cools, it stays in its new shape.

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Vacuum forming is one way of thermoforming and is an important part of creating packaging for food, medicine, and manufacturing. As with everything, there are pros and cons involved.

Pros

– Because good-quality plastic is used, the products produced tend to be durable compared to similar items.
– The production time – which can be under a month for some items – is quicker than equivalent products, leading to fast delivery times.
– Because it uses plastic sheets, it is ideal for molding larger products.
– It can use a range of different plastics, making it a flexible option.
– It offers companies a wide range of design options because of the plastics it can use and the size of the products it can produce.
– Excess plastic can be recycled, reducing waste.
– Tooling and engineering costs are lower than other production methods.

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Cons

– When pliable, the plastic sheets can become susceptible to damage and break when stretched too much at higher temperatures, leading to wastage and higher-than-expected production costs.
– The plastic can cool too quickly to create your product.
– The cost of using good-quality plastic sheets is higher than that of other production methods by as much as 50% in some cases.
– It is a one-sided process in the sense that the end product is restricted to the design of the mould.
– Certain design features don’t work, such as sharp corners or tight angles, which can cause internal stresses.

Who is it right for?

The speed with which products can be produced, their lower tooling and engineering costs, and the number of design options make it ideal for low-volume production and prototype development, something specialists such as https://www.bridgewooduk.com/production-assembly/vacuum-forming/ can help with.

Depending on the thickness of the plastic used, there are two categories of thermoforming: thin gauge, which is used in food, medicine and retail packaging, and thick gauge, which is used in manufacturing products such as plastic pallets, making it a potentially good choice no matter what sector you work in.