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Thermoformers Well-Suited for a Broad Range of Applications

Thermoformers use a plastic processing technique that molds a heated sheet of plastic to manufacture products for a wide range of applications.

End markets include:

  • Food packaging
  • Automotive
  • Healthcare and medical
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods and appliances
  • Electrical and electronics

Thin-gauge thermoforming, which generally uses plastic sheet with a thickness of less than 1.5 mm, is employed to make products like:

  • Clamshells
  • Blisters
  • Trays
  • Pharmaceutical bottles
  • Lids
  • Containers

Thick-gauge thermoforming is used in place of metal components such as:

  • Electronic cases
  • Vehicle doors
  • Dashboards
  • Medical devices
  • Pallets
  • Refrigerator liners
  • Utility vehicle beds

Whether thin- or thick-gauge, the thermoforming process usually entails six steps:

  1. Loading a plastic sheet or feeding plastic film into an oven.
  2. Heating the plastic to between 160 degrees F and 375 degrees F.
  3. Stretching and shaping the plastic over a mold, using vacuum pressure and atmospheric measure to form the plastic to the mold.
  4. Cooling the part.
  5. Removing the part.
  6. Trimming the part.

Molds are usually made of aluminum, although some thermoformers use plaster of paris, wood or plastic molds instead.

Common materials used by thermoforming companies include HDPE, PMMA, polycarbonate, HIPS and ABS, with polypropylene accounting for the bulk of thermoformed materials.

Thermoforming offers a wide range of benefits over other plastic processes. It allows for fine surface details and textures. It also provides the look of injection molding without the need for high volumes. Compared to injection molding, thermoforming offers lower tooling costs and a faster time to market. And it allows for quicker changes between projects, as compared to injection molding and rotomolding.

The global thermoforming market was estimated at $12.3 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 4.9% through 2027. Increasing demand in the healthcare and pharmaceutical packaging sectors is projected to be a key factor in that growth.

Visit www.polysort.com for a comprehensive list of thermoformer manufacturers and thermoforming companies.

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