05 Oct Heavy Gauge vs. Thin Gauge Thermoforming: Which Process is Right for Your Project?
Thermoforming is an easy, affordable, versatile process that can be used to create a wide variety of plastic parts in the medical, aerospace, packaging and even defense industries. However, the type of thermoforming process that’s right for your project will depend on a number of factors, including the size and shape of the part you need, strength and durability requirements, and budget. These important decisions are made by manufacturers who determine if the right process is either heavy gauge or thin gauge thermoforming.
Tru-Form is a custom heavy gauge and thin gauge thermoformer located in Southern California. We utilize a 74,000 sq. ft. AS9100D with ISO 9001:2015 registered facility, and with our vast thermoforming resources, we are able to take our customers’ ideas and designs to help them determine which process is best for their exact application.
Heavy Gauge Thermoforming
Heavy gauge thermoforming is a useful process when needing to create larger, sturdier components. Some of the parts that most commonly use heavy gauge thermoforming include:
- Medical enclosures
- Large-scale trays
- Transfer packaging
- Automotive after-market accessories
- Aerospace/aircraft interiors and assemblies
- Defense packaging
- Commercial/specialty packaging
- Custom pallet/tray packaging
Material and Thickness
Depending on the product specifications and industry needs, heavy gauge thermoformed parts may need different materials at different thicknesses. Our heavy gauge thermoforming department utilizes sheet-fed vacuum form presses to make parts with molds from 6” x 6” up to a 60” x 84” footprint, and with material 0.060” to 0.375” thickness. We also utilize a wide range of plastic materials for our heavy gauge thermoforming process, including ABS, PVC, Polypropylene, HDPE, Polycarbonate, TPO, HIPS, PET, Acrylic, Bolteron, and Kydex.
Heavy gauge thermoforming tends to be a more affordable and versatile option than injection molding, especially for large area parts and limited run production. Heavy gauge thermoform molds and processes can easily be modified where injection molding processes can’t be as easily changed, which works particularly well for prototype and developmental projects. When trimming heavy gauge parts, Tru-Form utilizes one of our 5-axis CNC controlled router mills, which guarantees repeatability and the ability to trim shapes that would be difficult, if not impossible, for injection molding.
Thin Gauge Thermoforming
Thin gauge thermoforming is a useful, multi-purpose molding process that can be used to create a wide variety of products, typically between .010″ and .060″ thick. The experts at Tru-Form focus our thin gauge thermoforming capabilities on parts such as:
- Medical catheters
- Transport trays and kits
- Specialty packaging trays
- Blister packs
- End caps
Material and Thickness
Much like heavy gauge thermoforming, thin gauge thermoformed parts may need different materials at different thicknesses depending on industry needs. While typically not as thick as heavy gauge thermoformed components, part thicknesses with thin gauge thermoforming can run from 0.008” to 0.040”, with some exceptions up to .060”. Our high-speed pressure forming in-line form and trim thermoformers can accommodate molds up to 34” x 48” with up to a 6” depth of draw. We also utilize a wide range of plastic materials for our thin gauge thermoforming processes, including PVC, PET, PETG, HIPS, Polycarbonate, HDPE, and Polypropylene.
Thin gauge thermoforming allows manufacturers like Tru-Form to make parts with high definition in small batches. These small batches can then be scaled up from prototype quantities and small 2,500-piece orders to 100,000+ and multimillion-piece orders. Other thin gauge thermoformed parts we create, like our medical trays, can be produced in a controlled environment that allows parts to go from the machine to the finished packing configuration with a minimal amount of handling.
Determining the Best Process for Your Product
Depending on what your needs are for your particular application or industry, Tru-Form can help you determine if either heavy gauge or thin gauge thermoforming is the best process for you. Even if the solution isn’t as clear-cut as using one process over the other, Tru-Form even has the unique ability to blend heavy gauge and thin gauge tool engineering. This allows us to help our customers always achieve their product goals, no matter what they may be.
At Tru-Form, we take the time to ask questions and listen to our customers’ needs, and we determine the best materials to use as well as the most cost-effective thermoforming solution to deliver on those needs.
Tru-Form’s Dedication to Your Success
Based in Southern California, Tru-Form Plastics is a trusted heavy gauge and thin gauge thermoformer focused on flawless execution with optimized processes for a wide range of manufacturing industries. With our 100 years of combined experience amongst a dynamic team of plastic manufacturing experts, we delight our customers through efficient design for manufacturability, prototyping, production, assembly, and on-time delivery. As an AS9100 and ISO 9001:2015 company, Tru-Form develops imaginative, engineered solutions for some of the most complex applications. We have the capabilities and capacity to serve Fortune 50 companies and are nimble enough to quickly adjust to the needs of startup companies to take on low-volume, high mix, and high-volume, low mix projects.