Thermoforming and Vacuum Forming at RapidMade

Thermoforming and vacuum forming are fast and inexpensive technologies for manufacturing durable products by shaping hot thermoplastic sheets around a mold.

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.

Thermoform styrene tray gif

Get a Customized Quote in 24 Hours or Less

Request a quote with our Quick Quote tool or by giving us a call. Our engineers will review your design and send you a price in 24 hours or less. Thermoformed products typically ship in 2-4 weeks.


Durable Thermoplastics

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.

Custom thermoformed panel for an underwater camera housing

Custom thermoformed panel for an underwater camera housing


Thermoforming and Rapid Tooling: Better Together

Using inexpensive rapid manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, milling and casting, RapidMade can create tooling for thermoforming in under 48 hours.

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 compared to traditional technologies like injection molding. Click here to find out more!

Short-run urethane mold for a thermoformed automotive testing tool

Short-run urethane mold for a thermoformed automotive testing tool


Custom tray for use with collaborative robotics to improve efficiency.

Custom tray for use with collaborative robotics to improve efficiency.

Improve Efficiency with Custom Trays

Custom trays can benefit a range of professional environments, from automated assembly lines to hospital operating rooms. By tailoring solutions to your specific needs, RapidMade can create tools that fit seamlessly into your existing production. Learn more here.

Clamshell packaging formed on tooling made in under 24 hours

Clamshell packaging formed on tooling made in under 24 hours

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 sign which combines thermoforming with plastic imaging

3D sign which combines thermoforming with plastic imaging

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.


How Does Thermoforming Work?

First, a plastic sheet is heated until pliable. It is then pressed over a mold. In the case of vacuum forming, a vacuum is used to pull the plastic tightly against the mold, ensuring consistent definition in the final product. Once the product is taken off the mold, the excess plastic is trimmed off and recycled.


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 info@rapidmade.com or at 503-943-2781.

 

HIPS (Polystyrene)

Our most commonly-used material. Inexpensive, functional material that is food safe at room temperature but can be brittle at low temperatures and can off-gas at higher temperatures. Used for packaging trays, covers and light-duty structural pieces.

PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate) (Polyester)

Moderately inexpensive material with good water and oxygen barriers. Able to stand up to substantially lower temperatures than HIPS. Often used for food-safe applications, freezer packaging and water bottles.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Medium-cost impact-resistant engineering plastic which can be flame retardant or UV resistant when blended with other materials. Used for high-end packaging and moderate-load structural components.

 

PC (Polycarbonate)

Medium- to high-cost engineering plastic with high impact and temperature resistance, plus options for UV and scratch resistance. Often used for glass replacements on phones, TVs, lights or glasses. Applicable in a wide range of high-temp situations.

PE, HDPE or LDPE (Polyethylene)

Moderately hard, inexpensive plastic with high chemical resistance. Does not off-gas at high temperatures. Chemical and thermal durability makes it well-suited for chemical-resistant containers.

PP (Polypropylene)

Moderately-priced alternative to PE which improves thermal and mechanical properties but decreases chemical resistance. Can be used as an engineering plastic. Used for chemical- and thermal-resistant applications, including food contact.

 

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)

Hard engineering plastic with strong mechanical properties as well as high chemical and electrical resistance. Can be made rigid or flexible. Used for chemical-resistant and food-grade containers.

Acrylic

An inexpensive, rigid and brittle plastic with relatively high UV resistance. More difficult to form than other plastics. Not intended for tight bends or details. UV resistance makes it well-suited to outdoor applications.