Thermoforming Process

Custom Thermoforming Processes

Medical Suture Tray

The thermoforming process converts flat, two-dimensional sheets into more complex three-dimensional shapes through the application of heat and a pressure. The process uses a mold, either male or female, to define and control the shape of the part. The formed part then goes through a trimming operation to become a finished part.

A secondary benefit is the rapid and economical design changes that can be accomplished leveraging our in-house design capabilities and tool shop to build our own molds and trimming fixtures.

The thermoforming industry is divided into two general categories-thin gauge and heavy gauge. Thin gauge thermoforming is well suited for making parts less than .060″ thickness. Our high-speed in-line equipment is geared to produce parts in the range of 5000 to millions of units.

Our Heavy Gauge department produces parts up to 5’x9′ with draw depths to 28″. Heavy gauge thermoforming will use material .060″ and thicker for low to moderate production volumes. Depending on part size, production quantities can range from several parts for design and prototyping parts to 5,000 parts or more for large production runs.

Custom Thermoforming Capabilities Summary


Up to 5’x9′ with draw depth to 28″


.060″ to .500″ – most common .125″ to .250


Production runs from 10 to millions of units

Vacuum Forming Plastic Process

Blank Material Loaded Into Clamp

A material blank that has a length and width greater than the finished part is loaded into a clamp frame to be carried through the process.

Clamp frame loads into oven

The blank in the clamp frame moves into an oven where it is heated to the forming temperature. At the forming temperature, the material is softened and pliable, but remains in a sheets configuration and is not melted.

Oven to Forming Station

The material is then moved from the oven to the forming station. The softened blank is then sealed on the deck of the tool. In some instances, low pressure air will prestretch the material to enhance wall thickness uniformity on the finished part.

Blank is vacuumed to tool

A vacuum is drawn between the blank and tool to form the softened material against the tool surface. In pressure forming, while the vacuum is drawn to avoid air entrapment, positive air pressure is applied on the non tool side of the material to force the material against the tool surface.

Additional Option for Process

An option for the process when using female tools is to use a ‘pusher’ or ‘plug assist’ on the non tool side of the blank to control and improve material distribution in the finished part.

Formed Part is Removed

The now formed part, while still in the clamp frame, is removed from the forming tool.
The clamp frame releases (opens) for part removal. The formed part is now ready for the next step – trimming.

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