What is Vacuum Forming

What is Vacuum Forming

Well, vacuum forming is a modern technique that many industries are using to produce various items. The process involves multiple steps that particular material undergoes to make the final product. Keep reading as we share more facts about the process.

So, what is vacuum foaming? The answer is uncomplicated. It is a process that works when you heat plastic material. Later, the same plastic material will undergo foaming to attain various shapes.

The entire process involves cooling the same plastic material until it hardens. As it hardens, you will remove the part from the machine. One can use this process to form durable and permanent plastics like protective covers.

How Vacuum Forming Works

How Vacuum Forming Works

Clamping

As you begin the process of vacuum forming, make sure you have sturdy clamp frames. It should handle the plastic materials that you will be using to make the final product. It should also handle any thickest material in the process.

A single heater should handle thickness of 6mm while a durable heater should handle at least a thickness of 10mm.

You can use an automated process since it is safe to use. There will be minimal cases of accidents from the interlocking machines.

It is also vital for the operator to use safety guards.

Heating

Typically, heaters happen to use infrared heat by the application of the aluminum reflector plate. You can get the best results by using different materials. However, you must evenly heat the material in use.

One can achieve better heating by having a series of zones which are under the control of regulators. Unfortunately, ceramic materials tend to perform poorly. They are slow to warm since they have a high thermal mass.

Alternatively, you can use more sophisticated heaters. They have a pyrometer feature that ensures accurate temperature control. It will accurately sense the melting temperature and coordinate with operating process controls.

We recommend twin heaters when using thick materials. They will uniformly provide reliable heat which penetrates evenly. The cycle time is also faster. You can use twin heaters while working on materials that need higher temperatures.

One should closely monitor places of heat intensity. Also, convectional air currents can lead to heat loses at the edges. The cool thing is that twin heaters are cost-saving.

Sheet level

During the heating cycle, you activate a photo-electric beam that is under the plastic sheet. Sometimes, this plastic sheet may sag down and eventually break the beam. You can respond by injecting a smaller amount of air.

Such a response will prevent the plastic sheet from sagging. As a result, the plastic sheet will automatically clear the beam. It is noteworthy that the sheet level is not available on some machines.

Pre-stretch 

Some people refer to this level as a bubble level. Here, you ensure than the plastic sheet is at its foaming temperature. You can pre-stretch it to ensure uniform wall thickness as you apply the vacuum. You can obtain consistent results by using the bubble controlling method.

One can mold the heated and stretched plastic by using air pressure and vacuum.

Plug Assist

One can use this plug assisted vacuum forming if straight vacuum forming cannot evenly distribute thermoplastic sheet in each mold areas. You can use a plug device to assist in evenly distributing the sheet in a particular mold. Afterwards, you apply the vacuum.

When you use this process, most of the thermoplastic material will access the bottom of the mold. Eventually, it implies that the right material reaches each corner of your mold. Also, it will prevent the plastic from thinning out.

Vacuum

You can apply the vacuum when you correctly heat the materials to allow it to form a sheet. You will use a vacuum pump to draw any trapped air from the mold and the sheet.

Vacuum pumps vary in design. There are diaphragm pumps. On the other hand, there is also dry, and oil-filled pump.

Cooling and Release

As you form the mold, it must undergo cooling before you release it. You should not release it too soon since it may deform leading it to get rejected. Alternatively, you can use high-speed fans to accelerate the cooling process.

You can also combine the fines with a spray mist. You will attach the nozzles on the fan while directing a mist of cold water onto the sheet. The design will speed up the cooling by more than 30%. You can also use the method to control any shrinking on the molded pieces.

Cooling and Release

Trimming and Finishing

As you complete the cooling process, you will remove the sheet from the machine. You will begin to remove the excess materials. Also, you should start to drill holes, cut-outs and slots. One can also use other post-foaming processes like printing, decoration, strength and assembly.

Besides, you can employ various trimming methods to make the final sheet. Also, use the right equipment to complete this process. The success of the process will largely depend on the size of the part, type of cut, the thickness of the material and draw ratio.

Tooling materials 

The initial process of vacuum forming is the creation of molding, which we refer to as tooling. There are various tooling materials like:

1. Wood

The wooden tool will wear out easily as compared to other materials. You can best use the wooden tools for smaller runs. They produce a basic product that one can use it in simple applications.

2. Casted or Molded Tools

You can use the cast resins while on a larger production. Also, one can use sand the resin tool to give a smooth finish. If you desire good quality, you can try fiberglass. It is also vital to observe the following aspects:

  • Overheating of the tools
  • The internal support to avoid collapsing of the materials

You can avoid plaster tools since they tend to be fragile. They are also challenging to mount.

3. 3D printing

Many labs are using 3D printing technology to make specific items. You will feed the design into to CAD file format and allow it to function. The technology will build durable plastics and molds that befit a particular standard.

Typically, the thermoplastics that come out are long-lasting and durable.

4. Cast Aluminum

Typically, you can use cast aluminum tools to make a blemish-free surface. The cool thing is that the finished device can be sturdy. Furthermore, it can produce more than 100,000 parts hence suitable for mass production.

One can use CNC machines to make appropriate sizes. The method is also cost-effective.

5. CNC Machined Aluminum and Resin

CNC tooling machines come in various models. They may be from low to high density. You can use a CNC aluminums machine if you want high production. They also achieve an intricate form of molds.

Some of the best aluminum grades for machining are 2014 and 6082.  

Application of vacuum forming

Most of the plastics that you encounter daily result from vacuum forming. Many industries use the vacuum forming process to make the following products:

a) Agricultural components

You can use a vacuum forming process to create a variety of agricultural items. They can be heavy-duty machinery and or vehicles. One can use such heavy machinery and vehicles on outdoor activities.

Notably, such items should be sturdy and durable. They should also be weather-resistant to make them suitable for rough weather.

b) Automotive parts

The automotive industry is the greatest beneficiary of the vacuum formed items. For instance, the dashboard of each car has components that are as a result of vacuum forming. Some parts of the cars, lorries, aeroplanes and boats have the vacuum formed parts.

The good news is that the parts are lightweight and affordable. One can tailor them to fit the specific design of a particular vehicle.

c) Packaging

You can use plastics for packaging purposes. They are durable, hygienic and cost-effective. You can have a variety of options depending on shape and sizes. You can use some of the items to store food.

Other items are ideal in drink packaging. Some of the containers are suitable in the medical industry. Also, beauty products make use of vacuum-formed plastics for storage purposes.

d) Household Items

Most of the household items originate from a vacuum forming process. Precisely, there are utensils and appliances in the kitchen, which are notable examples. Other uses are plastic bathtubs and garden equipment.

e) Retail and marketing displays

You can use vacuum forming for creative applications. Most of such designs are suitable for retail and marketing purposes. Some retailers are using the process to make promotional displays to catch the attention of the customer.

f) Electronics

Many electronics industries use vacuum formed plastics to make specific gadgets. It may be the casing of speakers, televisions and phones. The industry uses this cost-effective process to make certain items on a large scale.

Advantages of Vacuum Forming

Vacuum forming is a process that leads to the production of several products. As a result, many industries have come into operation to serve the hungry market. Some of the underlying benefits of the vacuum forming process are:

Precision

The vacuum formed items are more precise. The design specifications follow a particular pattern to make them acquire a perfect look. You can mostly use this process to manufacturer some parts that require a specific fit. They should ideally fit into other items.

For example, you should use a suitable stand when holding an iPod. As you use the vacuum process, it will eliminate errors. There will be fewer possibilities that there will be a market recall of items due to defects.

Cost-effective

The process of vacuum forming will enable the user to incur fewer costs during production. The process uses low pressures hence will demand less sophisticated tools. You can use relatively inexpensive materials to produce various molds.

Also, you can produce large parts from a single sheet of plastics. Concerning that, it eliminates quantity costs. Also, you can accumulate discards from finished products and recycle them to produce other products.

Vacuum forming require less capital to start. You can begin small production lines and grow from there.

Time-efficient

One can maximize time to perform mass production while using the vacuum forming process. The production process is usually simple. One will spend little time in design and producing particular products.

The process allows the finished product to access the market faster. The producer will also have more time to focus on more complicated designs. You can also automate sophisticated designs. With that, one can perform a mass production using less time.

Design Flexibility

You can use vacuum forming to improve the design aesthetics of a particular company. It is critical since the market economy has multiple brands featuring the logos of various companies. You can use the same process to fulfil specific design requirements.

One can use this process to make products in the packaging industry. You can comfortably make various designs that are suitable for multiple uses.

Disadvantages of Vacuum Forming

  • It is difficult to achieve consistent wall thickness. It can be challenging to make deep parts.
  • You can only work on a particular material at a specific time.
  • Some clear parts may show dirt or defects from the mold.
  • The finishing costs are labor-intensive and high.
  • It may be a non-competitive method when compared to other computerized processes.

In conclusion

Vacuum forming is a process that involves preheating of plastic sheets, and the same preheated sheet will make contact with form or mold to cause mold. It is a process that will lead to various designs.

Vacuum forming is a method that many industries use to make various items. Most of the vehicle parts and electronic materials come from this process. It is a reliable method that applies to multiple sectors of the economy.

If you are new to this process, it is time to make up your mind. It is among the best means in the modern world which one can use to make particular items that are useful.

Are you looking for Vacuum Forming services? You can reach us for more details.