Many factors influence which vendor a company chooses to supply their formed or molded plastics. At the top of that list of factors should be the type of thermoforming equipment their vendor uses.
Advantages of Thermoforming
Thermoforming is a manufacturing process used for creating things out of plastic. Sheets of plastic are heated to a pliable state and then molded into the desired shape through vacuum forming or pressure forming. Finally, the formed plastic is trimmed to deliver the exact size and shape needed to create packaging, tools, and parts for various consumer goods from toys to automobiles.
There are many benefits to thermoforming over alternative plastic technologies such as injection molding. For example, thermoforming provides faster time-to-market, increased economies of scale, cheaper tooling, and reduced initial investment. Design options are practically limitless. Consumer goods suppliers can increase their brand recognition through the creative use of color, shapes, textures, and text. Sizes range from pill packaging measured in centimeters to automotive parts a meter in length or more. Another advantage is durability. Thermoformed packages are tamper-resistant and resilient, which offers a range of benefits from product protection during shipping to multiple sealing options that increase product shelf life. Thermoforming is a cost-effective technology. Not only do thermoformed plastics cost 15-20% less than injection molding, but thermoforming is also a less labor-intensive technology that saves human resource costs. Finally, environmental sustainability is an advantage. Thermoforming lends itself well to using recycled materials, while less plastic material can be used to achieve the same product integrity or strength. This results in lighter weight, more environmentally friendly parts.
Thermoforming has been around as a technology since the first half of the 20th century. Since then, various materials have been optimized for a variety of use cases. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) has a high strength-to-density ratio and is used for cutting boards, piping, and building materials. PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) is ideal for medical device packaging because it holds up well to heat sealing, radio frequency sealing, chemical sterilization, UV light, and other techniques required to keep products sterile and ready for medical use.
Like plastic materials themselves, plastics suppliers have continued to optimize their processes and equipment. One of the most important considerations when choosing a supplier of thermoformed plastics is the type of thermoforming machine they use. In the world of thermoforming, no piece of manufacturing equipment can compare to a Brown Machine.
The Brown Machine and Modern Thermoforming
All thermoforming machines are not the same. The type of machine affects the value a thermoforming supplier brings to its customers. According to the Plastics Engineering article, The Dawn of Commercial Thermoforming, in 1965 Brown Machine developed an inexpensive, roll-fed pressure former, which ushered in the modern thermoforming era. That machine was the first to produce thermoformed parts that emerged from the machine already trimmed and ready to be shipped. Since that time, Brown Machine has consistently set the bar for high-performance thermoforming machines.
Fast forward to 2020, and in the world of thermoformed plastics for automotive, aeronautics, electronics, and more, the Brown Machine continues to outperform and provide tangible competitive advantages for plastics manufacturers and their customers.
Among these advantages, three stand out as clear benefits for anyone who needs thermoformed plastics as part of their supply chain.
Thermoforming is well-known for fast-turn prototype and production tooling. Compared to tooling for injection molding, thermoforming tools are quicker and simpler to produce. Replaceable inserts can add new styling features, logos, openings, or other variations. However, prototyping, ramp, and production times vary across thermoforming machines, and the Brown Machine is the fastest. Advanced quick-change equipment allows product-to-product changeover in two hours or less. The Brown Machine enables manufacturers to increase the throughput and efficiency of thermoforming operations dramatically. This high-speed manufacturing is advantageous for customers with a JIT (just-in-time) production strategy and short lead times to get products to market in as little as a few weeks.
Because of the low tooling costs, thermoforming lends itself well to low volume and prototyping through mass-market volume manufacturing. Design changes and product enhancements at the early stages of a product’s lifecycle can happen quickly without pushing a project over budget. That flexibility also means it’s simple to modify tooling when it’s time to redesign or update your thermoformed products. Once a product becomes successful and demand increases, it is easy to ramp to high volume output. Thermoformed plastics suppliers using a high throughput Brown Machine have a greater capacity for more significant volumes with consistent quality and accuracy. The Brown Machine enables products to scale from 1000s to 10s of millions of parts and is designed to accommodate heavy-duty, high-speed, high-volume forming of virtually all commonly thermoformed raw materials.
When it comes to plastics suppliers, size matters. Thermoforming allows both small and larger sized products to use less plastic material, which provides advantages in product weight, materials costs, and environmental sustainability without sacrificing product quality or durability. Thermoforming can work for large plastic products, unlike most other plastic molding processes limited to smaller items. With the Brown Machine, manufacturers can achieve a larger forming area, up to 78 inches long, with high and consistent accuracy, meeting the most challenging customer specifications. There is always a cost associated with every individual supplier a company needs to bring into its supply chain. Not every manufacturer can deliver both large and small size medical-grade plastics. Working with a plastic manufacturer that uses a Brown Machine allows customers to work with one supplier for the broadest possible range of sizes and shapes, textures and colors for the widest variety of products.
Tru-Form Plastics’ Offers Thermoforming with Our Brown Machine
Now that you know why it matters choose a thermoformed plastics vendor with the best machines available. Tru-Form is one of a handful of U.S. suppliers with a Brown Machine, providing you with superior products and service to meet all your thermoforming needs across sectors including consumer, automotive, aerospace and defense, medical, and more. With manufacturing based 100% in the United States, the Tru-Form Plastics team prides itself on the ability to deliver value, efficiency, and quality for our customers. Our high-throughput Brown Machine enables us to achieve the fastest delivery worldwide, whether you are launching a niche product or need millions per month.