A Medley of Molds

A successful part starts with a good tool. There are many different tool designs and material selections available for various applications. Here are some of the most common tool types thermoformers utilize.

  • Composite Molds: Depending on the length of the production run, and especially for prototyping, an engineered composite mold may be a good choice because it’s less expensive and quick.
  • Wood: Molds can be made of wood or a combination of wood and other materials. With this option, tooling can be more cost effective. However, wood tools can also be less durable and accurate.
  • Machined Aluminum Molds: Molds machined from aluminum are not only more stable and consistent choices, but also able to hold tight tolerances. That makes them good for detailed parts.
  • Cast Aluminum Molds: While still made of aluminum, this type of tool is often less expensive than their machined counterparts. But it’s somewhat limited in its application for textured parts.

With the variety of tooling available, it’s important to work with your thermoformer to find the best option for your needs.

Please contact us at our Southern California headquarters today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your needs.

The Role of QA in Thermoforming Perfection

A thermoformer’s engineering team can provide a range of advice and technical support to create solutions that meet your needs and those of the marketplace. One of the most important stages where the engineering team’s involvement can be vital is quality assurance.

With their guidance, some activities a QA team can conduct to promote uniform dimensional accuracy, structural integrity, and cosmetic consistency throughout all in-process and finished parts and assemblies include:

  • Documentation: A skilled and experienced QA department should fully review, monitor, and document pre-defined quality requirements throughout the thermoforming process.
  • Measurement: The quality assurance department should have at its disposal a full range of measurement equipment, including FARO Arm, color measurement, digital calipers, tint meters and more state-of-the-art equipment.
  • Inspections: A quality assurance department should be leveraged to provide in-process and final inspections to customers for ease of mind.

As you investigate thermoformers, ask about their engineering capabilities in quality assurance, their commitment to total quality management, and how they address any non-conformance.

Please contact us at our Southern California headquarters today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your needs.

Teaming for Innovation

When developing solutions, manufacturers should team with their thermoformer on technologies and best practices to meet cost, time, and performance criteria. Here are some key points for collaboration:

  • Engineering: The thermoformer should analyze your product’s function, brand attributes, user perceptions, and strategic plan to develop a list of parameters.
  • Budget: Be sure to share with your thermoformer your budget and other financial considerations that can impact production decisions.
  • Packaging: The thermoforming company should have access to critical information about the product’s protection needs and packaging process.
  • Timing: Speed to market can be essential so make sure you reach an agreed-upon timeline with your thermoformer since the timeline often affects design choices.
  • Concepts: The thermoformer you choose should work collaboratively with stakeholders on design concepts, soliciting feedback to implement into the final solution.

By teaming with your thermoformer on the design process, you’ll realize a final product that furthers your company and brand in today’s tight market.

Please contact us at our Southern California headquarters today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your needs.

Flexibility First with Thermoforming

Thermoforming offers many benefits over other types of molding. And one of the most significant benefit is the flexibility it delivers. With thermoforming, manufacturers have a variety of options both pre-production and post to achieve their desired outcome, including:

  • Design: Your thermoforming vendor’s engineering and design teams can assess all the variables and requirements involved, develop design schematics, and create drafts to formulate the exact components needed to take your idea to execution.
  • Material Selection: A wide variety of materials can be used in thermoforming depending on the part being produced. Each different plastic has its own unique properties and benefits so your thermoformer will work with you to match the best material for your application.
  • Color and Texture: Depending on the look you want to achieve, thermoforming can produce parts to your exact specifications through the use of colored plastic material, silk screening, paint, and in-molded textures.
  • Finish: Your cosmetic requirements may also mean you need a certain finish. Fortunately, with thermofoming, you can achieve high-gloss, semi-gloss, and even metallic touches as an integral part of the manufacturing process.
  • Product Changes: Once complete, it’s easy to make changes to your design with thermoforming without big upfront costs so you can feel confident about making improvements.

The variety of options thermoforming offers yields advantages other processes can’t compete with, making it an ideal approach for any application.

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your specific needs. 

Who Needs EMI Shielding?

EMI, also known as electromagnetic interference, is a disturbance in the operation of electronic devices caused by external sources that affect the electrical circuit. One approach to prevent this interference is the use of an EMI shield, a protective enclosure placed around devices to block signals.

Thermoforming can make the use of protective plastic shields simple through integration during the production process. When thermoforming, shields can be applied to the plastic sheet before forming to protect sensitive components by:

  • Sprays
  • Paints
  • Brush-on coatings

These protective films often contain metals like nickel or copper to deflect interference. As EMI is now regulated throughout the globe, use of these materials requires compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency (among other local agencies), so look for a thermoforming partner that is fully certified by UL on the substances.

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your specific needs. 

Accuracy and Precision with CNC Trimming

To finish a thermoformed part, a variety of trimming processes can be used. The process selection depends on the quantity being produced, part specifications, and the tolerances needed. Options include hand trimming, die cutting, air router, and for the greatest precision, axis computer-numerical-controlled trimming, also known as CNC trimming.

When it comes to CNC trimming, the more advanced thermoformers use five-axis centers – as opposed to three-axis – to produce parts with repeatable, close tolerances. With this approach, the five axis are identified as W-Y-Z (length-width-depth), with two additional degrees of freedom sometimes referred to as C and B. It is crucial that the CNC trim fixture always duplicates the size and configuration of the part’s forming tool, meaning, that it look identical.

During the CNC trimming process, the part must be held securely and immobile, typically through the use of a vacuum system to lock the part against the trim fixture without clamps. This approach also allows for full freedom for trimming on the non-tool side of the part.

Two of the biggest advantages of CNC trimming are:

  • Part design revisions involving trimming can be easily accomplished with a CNC program change
  • Multiple part configurations can be generated from a single formed part by different trim(s)

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your specific needs. 

What to Look for in a Thermoformer

When you’re selecting a thermoformer, consider looking for a partner that offers turn-key services to optimize your efficiencies and savings. Among the key processes a full-service thermoformer can offer are:

  • In House Molding: Your thermoformer should have the pre-production experience to take your idea from prototype to production.
  • Machining: Precise manufacturing is critical so look for a thermoformer with the latest equipment and up to date industry standards for quality performance.
  • Trimming: Integrated CNC trimming will ensure delicate details and close tolerances for consistent, accurate parts every time.
  • Finishing: For cosmetic enhancements, identify a partner with expertise in material selection, color, texture, paint, and other details for a part that meets your specific needs.
  • Fabrication: It’s best to find a thermoformer who utilizes advancements like ultrasonic welding to join plastic pieces together, especially small ones.
  • Assembly:  If you have a more complex project, the ideal thermoformer will offer multi-part assembly.
  • Packing and shipping: Look for a vendor that will custom pack your items to prevent damage and ship them, using bar coding that aligns with your objectives.

By using this checklist as a guide, you’ll be able to choose the right thermoformer for a complete part that meets your expectations– no matter how complex.

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@Tru-FormPlastics.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your specific needs. 

Can Foam Be Thermoformed? Yep.

A variety of plastic materials can be used in thermoforming, including foams such as those made from polystyrene, polyethylene and polyurethane. In fact, since it’s durable, absorbs sound and impact well, and is relatively inexpensive, foam is a popular material choice.

Thermoformers can form both open and closed cell foam:

  • Open Cell: This foam, which consists of cells that are joined together, is a softer and more flexible selection.
  • Closed Cell: This firmer type of foam has cells that are separate from each other and don’t compress. It’s an ideal option if adhesives or coatings will be used.

The type of foam used depends on a client’s needs, but both are commonly utilized for their advantages in a variety of industries, such as packaging, marine, electronics, automotive, aerospace, retail, and food.

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@InterTradeIndustries.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your needs. 

Why Choose Thermoforming?

For OEMs looking for solutions to their part needs, thermoforming offers a number of benefits over other processes. With the right thermoforming partner, you’ll realize:

  • Design Flexibility: A wide variety of materials, available in a range of colors and textures, allows you to obtain the look you want for your final part, even without paint.
  • Durability: Plastics made by thermoforming hold up better over time than other materials due to greater impact resistance.
  • Lower-cost Tooling: Thermoforming tooling is much more cost-effective than injection molding or blow molding.
  • Fast Time to Market: With thermoforming, you’ll see shorter production lead times and you can make changes to new products quickly.
  • Precision: From tight tolerances to complex shapes, thermoforming can meet your exact specifications, consistently.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Most materials from the process can be reused to create new plastic sheets, reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill.

Starting with just a CAD file, your vendor will work with you throughout the thermoforming process to deliver the parts—and advantages—necessary to meet your requirements.

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@InterTradeIndustries.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your needs. 

Hot and Cold: The Role of Heat Transfer in Thermoforming

With thermoforming, a plastic sheet is heated to its forming temperature, then shaped by a mold, but just what is “forming temperature?”

Most materials have a range of forming temperatures. For example, polystyrene has a lower forming temperature—the temperature at which it can be bent from its flat shape—of 260 degrees Fahrenheit and an upper forming temperature— the highest temperature at which the plastic remains a sheet—of 360 degrees Fahrenheit. However, practically speaking, there’s a normal forming temperature, which in the case of polystyrene, is 300 degrees Fahrenheit. When striving for the right temperature, remember that it’s the temperature of the sheet that matters, not the heater temperature.

Once the sheet is heated, it’s placed into a mold and formed by cooling the mold surface. Production molds are typically actively cooled by a medium such as water in channels to maintain a uniform temperature across the entire mold. When the plastic sheet contacts the mold, the energy is removed through conduction, the rate of which depends on factors like the thickness of the mold material.

Please contact us today at 714-894-5566 or info@InterTradeIndustries.com to learn more about our manufacturing solutions and how they can meet your needs.