For those who are new to the product packaging industry, chances are you have questions about thermoformed packaging, and what is involved with the process. Below we’ve answered the 5 most frequently asked questions to give you a better idea of what thermoforming is and how it can be used to create the right product packaging for you.
Q: How does thermoforming work?
A: Thermoforming is the process of heating a sheet of thermoplastic material and forming it to the desired shape. The process is rather simple:
- Heat a sheet of thermoplastic material in an oven.
- Once heated, place the heated sheet on a mold.
- Vacuum will either pull the heated sheet against the mold, pressurized air or a plug assist will press the sheet into the mold, or all three will be used. When the mold is removed, it will create a 3D object.
- Once the heated, formed plastic cools and hardens, it is then removed from the mold and trimmed.
- Finished products can be painted, hot stamped, labeled, placement of an insert card, die cut, or enhanced in other ways if coloring and details were not achieved during the forming process (i.e., through the use of colored plastics or tooling.)
Q: What is the difference between plastic injection molding and thermoforming?
A: Both plastic injection molding and thermoforming can produce a final product that is of the same quality and detail. In fact, due to the same level of quality, it is often challenging to be able to distinguish between the two in a final product. Although they are very similar, thermoforming is often the preferred method for a few different reasons:
- More affordable: Tooling for a thermoformed part can often be upwards of 90% cheaper than tooling for an injection-molded part. This is due in part to the fact that molds for thermoforming are single sided, whereas molds for injection molding include both a cavity and a core part.
- Quicker turnaround time: Because the tooling required to create thermoformed parts is simpler, they are easier and quicker to get into production, and ultimately to market, than injection-molding.
- Easy to update: Thermoformed parts are easier to adapt and modify to reflect updates than injection-molding.
Q: Which is better, pressure forming or vacuum forming?
A: There is no simple answer to this question. Ultimately, the answer will depend on the benefits that you are looking to get from your end product.
- Vacuum forming: This process is ideal for small production runs, and products with minimal details that and are simple. This method is preferred when trying to produce items quickly, and also for designing and building large items that need to have thin walls and to be lightweight.
- Pressure forming: This process is ideal when aesthetics is of upmost importance. For items that require detailed textures, crisp features, sharp corners, or formed-in logos, or other styling techniques.
Q: How do I know which plastic material is best for my application?
A: Different plastic materials have different physical characteristics that make the material suitable for different applications. If you are unsure what material will work best for your particular application, contact SouthPack today. We have years of experience and can help you determine the best material to meet your needs. We consider the thickness of the material, finish, durability, and rigidity of the material in determining the best material to use.
Q: Isn’t thermoforming only used for thin-gauge products?
A: No, thermoformed packaging is often used to create various product packages, including food trays, and long-lasting plastic products for various products and industries. The most common applications for thermoformed plastic is in toys, hardware, plumbing, household appliances, lawn and garden equipment, sports and leisure, office products, electronics, medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, novelty items, displays and so much more! Thermoforming has universal applications.
The process of thermoforming can produce many different types of products. To name a few: Clamshells, Blisters, Vacuum formed trays, displays, etc. The options and industries are endless. You literally see examples of these products in every day of your life as you get a coffee, got to a retail store, go to the doctor, go to a sporting event, go to the movies, etc.
As you can see, thermoforming has many benefits and useful applications, and can be used to achieve various product packaging needs. We hope that you have learned more about thermoforming and how it can benefit you. If you are interested in learning more and how thermoforming can be a benefit to your next project, please contact SouthPack today at (860) 224-2242!