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Well, it is now easier to transform raw materials into useful items by using modern technology. The process is more accurate and faster to bring reliable output. In that regard, our focus will be on thermoforming.
So, what is thermoforming? It is usually a process of heating a plastic sheet to a particular temperature to form a mold or shape. As a result, one can convert the end product into a usable item.
When you subject the sheet to high-enough temperatures, it is easier to mold or stretch it into a particular shape and mold.
One can thermoform both plastics and polycarbonate sheet materials.
Materials used for Thermoforming
Thermoforming is a process of molding plastic materials into particular shapes to make the end product usable. Plastic material comes in several designs as follows:
One can use HIPS to form rigid plastics. This plastic is usually brittle and transparent; hence it has various applications such as food drink applications. Moreover, manufacturers use them to make disposable cutlery, bottles, and containers.
You can easily create this plastic at a reduced cost.
PVC is an acronym for polyvinyl chloride, which is one of the most common plastics. The plastic has a sturdy structure since its creation process involves suspension polymerization. The hard structure makes it rigid to withstand impacts and extreme pressure.
Since the plastic allows low-cost production, it is the most preferred material by many companies. Some of its application include:
- Sewage pipes
- Electric cables
- Faux leather
- Commercial signage
HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene, which is usually a more robust thermoplastic. It also compromises of petroleum. The cool thing is that it has an exceptional strength to density ratio. Some of its application include:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic bottles
- Water pipes
- Installation cables
The ABS plastic comprises of acrylonitrile and butadiene and styrene. The material has tough resilience to heat. It can comfortably handle temperature that may range from -4 to 176 F. You can, therefore, mold this plastic at high temperatures.
One can use this material for various mechanical processes like:
- Protective headgear
- Musical instruments
- Tattoo inks
- Golf club heads
PET plastics or polyethylene terephthalate is useful in bottle production and synthetic fibers. After molding the product into the desired shape, you must dry the PET plastic to make it more resistant.
One can also recycle this plastic for other uses.
PETG is an acronym that stands for polyethylene terephthalate glycol. The material is a variation of pet plastic. Most of the manufacturer uses it to construct trays and blister packaging.
Thermoforming Polycarbonate Sheet
Such a process involves transforming the structure and the shape of the polycarbonate sheet while using different methods.
The most commonly used process is forcing a heated thermoplastic sheet into a mold for one to attain a required structure. Consequently, the thermoplastic will cool as it retains the particular specifications of the desired mold.
Therefore, thermoforming a polycarbonate involves heating the polycarbonate sheet to a specific temperature, which is ordinarily below the melting point. The heating will soften the materials until it stretches to the particular contours of the mold.
As this plastic comes into contact with mold, it will automatically take its shape. The remaining part is only to trim this mold for it to become a usable product. Such a process will be economical when processing large items of particular specifications.
For you to get better results, you must integrate critical modifications that are user-friendly to the thermoplastic sheet. Such a design will ensure uniformity as the process is repeatable.
Advantages of Thermoforming
There are several benefits of thermoforming as listed below:
- It is a careful process when you want to produce large parts. You can easily make large pieces comfortably.
- The process enhances low tooling costs, which later reduces the value of the product.
- The process is more efficient by producing high-quality products.
- The process is adaptable and flexible to various custom designs.
- It offers extensive options in the making particular pertains and finishing.
- The process allows the use of various types of plastics.
Disadvantages of Thermoforming
- The process requires thorough, especially heating.
- Some plastic sheets can also break as a result of excess heating.
- It is challenging to develop molds with certain shapes and bends.
Factors to Consider while Thermoforming
You need to make an important decision when performing the thermoforming process. If you make proper decisions, you will successfully make the end product look better. To get better results, you can consider observing the following elements:
Temperature plays a critical role in the overall success of the final product. You need to attain the optimum temperature for you to get the desired mold. In other words, the temperature will dictate the thermoforming process.
Different plastics will respond well to different heat temperatures. It would be best if you understood the heat requirement for your vinyl.
Type of Thermoforming Machine
It is crucial to understand that different machines will perfect particular processes. You must select a suitable thermoforming machine that matches your needs. Several devices come in different designs, such as rotary, inline, or shuttle.
The ideal machine should fit the application that you want to produce. It should be efficient with the correct speed if you wish to have a mass production.
The Design of the end product
The thermoforming process involves forming complex molds. As a result, the user should know the correct procedure of arriving at the right frame. If the final product has complex parts, then you must take a careful approach.
A good machine should provide the right temperature, the process, and the technique. Also, the device should accommodate the sheet size to facilitate the molding process.
Thermoforming System Procedure
For you to get the desired product, you must follow a particular process. You can execute this stepwise procedure until you get the final product. One must understand the process of getting the right product.
You need to have the right skills for you to operate the machines. Furthermore, you should understand the properties of different raw materials to get the desired final product. The operator should understand how to implement the correct parameters.
The operator should be creative to include various aspects that will make the overall process a success.
It is a vital aspect that you should understand well the underlying thermoforming processes. One of the boasters of this process is the right skills and machinery. Let’s look at some of the commonly used methods in designing plastic components.
For more information, check the video below.
Pre drying is the initial process one will begin with while thermoforming. The process works well at 125 degrees Celsius. At such heat, it will absorb moisture at a high rate. The trapped moisture will cause bubbles in the sheet
You can place the materials in the dehumidifying oven. It is essential to separate the sheets at a range of one inch. You should also regulate the temperature until the process is over.
The duration of this pre-drying process depends on the thickness and the amount of humidity absorption. You should transfer the material into a forming machine immediately you are through with the pre-drying process.
Heating is a critical aspect of your overall success. For instance, you can use a temperature of 180 to 190 degrees on polycarbonate material. Such a temperature is enough to cause it to change into various shapes and structures.
You should use a temperature control mechanism to ensure even distribution of heat. Alternatively, one can make use of infra-red heaters. The heaters are likely to heat the surface of the materials at a fast rate.
You should take a precaution and avoid overheating, which may lead to degradation.
Shaping the material
Before you begin the healing process, one should withdraw the heating elements. You will place the materials to define mold and allow it to take the desired shapes. As it loses heat, it will shrink to mimic the way of the molding materials.
By doing so, you will likely get the expected shape.
Cooling happens to be the final process. You should complete this process seamlessly as you wait for the end product. It is also helpful to place your mold into the cooling jigs. Such an arrangement will prevent warping. Moreover, it will be easier to attain room temperature.
The Main Applications of Thermoforming
Several industries use a thermoforming process to make various applications. The most commonly used applications are as follows:
Automotive Manufacturing Industry
Multiple vehicles are beneficiaries of this thermoforming process. Precisely, polycarbonate materials the most widely used materials to make vehicle parts. Some of these parts are:
- Interior door panels,
- Air ducts
- Engine bay panels
You can fix various vehicle parts that come from a thermoformed process.
Aviation and aerospace
The aerospace and aviation industries are the most common users of polycarbonate thermoformed materials. It should not be a surprise when we inform you that some aircraft parts come for the thermoformed plastics.
One primary example of a thermoformed polycarbonate part on aircraft is the window shades. Other elements that use this material are:
- Overhead luggage bins
- Ducting interior paneling
- Seating parts
- Gallery components
The medical industry is another beneficiary of the thermoformed materials. Some of this equipment that comes from the theses materials are:
- X-ray machines
- CT and MRI scans
- Other medical electronics
- Sterile packaging
- Trays and bins
- Hospital bed equipment
Office and Business machines
There are varieties of equipment that use thermoforming materials. The most common tools that use such documents are:
- Computer enclosures
- Fax machine enclosures
- Office furniture
Building and Construction
Several buildings and construction materials come from thermoforming carbonate. The most common applications in this industry are:
- Machinery covers
- Tools cases
- Equipment enclosures
What will you consider when you buy a thermoforming machine?
There are multiple types of thermoforming machines in the market. For you to acquire the right one, you should take a look at the following factors.
The suitable thermoforming machine should be user friendly. It will be ideal if you go for some training. By doing so, you will adequately operate the device without any hitches.
A good machine should have proper safety features to prevent many accidents. Do you know that the whole thermoforming process exposes you to many risks? The machine should have a suitable kit to mitigate safety.
The safety control unit should be easily accessible for faster access. The measures will avert many accidents.
Since technology is ever-expanding, it will be appropriate to buy the latest models that have more natural control units. The controls are necessary features that one will use to determine varying thermoforming processes.
Your machines should have the necessary controls that will enhance smoother operations.
You should consider size as part of the vital aspect of the selection of the right machines. Different sizes will match the multiple needs of the user. Some will go for larger sizes since they are in mass productions.
If your budget cannot allow you to acquire a large size, why can’t you settle for the moderate ones?
You must understand the warranty policies. Some machines have a warranty in particular parts. It is also critical to known if some pieces have a limited lifetime warranty.
Thermoforming is an old concept that causes several plastic materials to gain particular shapes. However, you need the proper knowledge to execute this process. Also, you should use the right plastic materials.
The thermoformed materials are common in various industries. In the medical field, you will encounter several testing equipments that utilize these materials. But that is not all. You can use the materials to make several other components.
Multiple industries use thermoformed items to serve various needs. Some of the materials are recyclable hence reduce production costs. This article appreciates the role of thermoformed plastics in advancing the living standards of human beings.
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