Thermoforming and Vacuum Forming
Thermoforming and vacuum forming are fast and inexpensive technologies for manufacturing versatile products by shaping hot thermoplastic sheets around a mold. Once the sheets are drawn onto the mold, any remaining air is sucked out of them, pulling the material tightly against the mold to ensure consistent definition in the final product. Once the product is taken off the mold, the excess plastic is trimmed off and recycled.
It requires less lead time and tooling costs than traditional manufacturing techniques like injection molding or machining while also offering a lower part cost than 3D printing. Although thermoforming has more design limitations than these technologies, it offers excellent value for compatible projects.
With bed sizes up to 4’ x 4’, our thermoforming services are ideal for a range of products, from custom trays and packaging to large panels, displays and housings.
Real thermoplastics are strong, durable and inexpensive compared to 3D printed materials. RapidMade offers an extensive range of plastics for thermoforming, such as PETG, HIPS, ABS, Styrene, PC, Acrylic and many more, in thicknesses ranging from 0.020" to 0.250" (0.5 mm to .6.5 mm).
With so many material options, thermoformed products are able to meet a host of mechanical and aesthetic demands, from conductivity and heat resistance to FDA food-grade certifications. Thermoformed parts can be rigid, flexible, translucent or opaque. This versatility has led to applications in a variety of industries, including food, medical, electronics and manufacturing industries.
Traditionally, thermoforming molds are milled from urethane or aluminum. This can be expensive, especially for small- to medium-sized parts, and can take 1-3 weeks to produce. By using 3D printed molds made with the HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), however, RapidMade can create durable molds for thermoforming in under 48 hours at a savings of up to 50% when compared to machining.
With a relatively high temperature resistance, the Nylon PA-12 used by MJF printing is excellent for thermoforming. It doesn’t bond with other materials and MJF molds do not require additional finishing for opaque parts. Molds for translucent parts may need a minimal amount of filling and sanding, though they will still offer substantial time and cost savings over machining in most cases. Moreover, 3D printed molds can easily produce undercuts and other complex shapes that would be difficult or impossible to machine.
Not only does this allow us to produce parts faster, it also makes it easy to prototype your product. Once prototypes are made, adjustments are cheap and quick, allowing you to get more iterations during your product development cycles. The time and cost savings of 3D printed molding allow thermoforming to be an economical option in an even wider range of situations throughout your product life cycle. Click here to find out more!
Packaging Made Easy
Good packaging provides two major benefits: protecting your products on their way to your customers and creating a good impression once they get there. With precise tolerances and a variety of presentation options, thermoformed packaging excels at both!
3D Plastic Imaging
RapidMade can quickly create inexpensive custom branding or visual textures for signs, packaging, retail displays and more by printing high-resolution 2D images onto sheet plastic and calibrating 3D tooling to match.
Thermoforming Materials and Applications
Thermoforming is compatible with a variety of materials that can achieve a wide range of thermal, mechanical and chemical properties. Below, we’ve put together a little guide to the materials we commonly use for thermoforming and some of their ideal applications. Though we provide some examples here, these materials can be used for many different products. If you’d like more information about any of the materials listed below, reach out to us at email@example.com or at 503-943-2781.