Thermoforming

Custom Plastic Thermoforming, Heavy Gauge Thermoforming

Custom Plastic Heavy Gauge Thermoforming Process using this single station pressure forming machineProductive Plastics, Inc. is a leading thermoforming manufacturer, offering pressure thermoforming, vacuum thermoforming and twin sheet thermoforming along with various value-added services. Productive Plastics specializes in heavy gauge thermoforming contact manufacturing, offering custom plastic thermoforming services from prototype to production.

Typical applications for Thermoforming

Custom thermoforming is a plastic production process that heats a two dimensional rigid thermoplastic sheet and by way of vacuum and pressure, forms that sheet into a three dimensional shape.

There are two distinct categories of plastic thermoforming:

  • Cut-sheet heavy gauge thermoforming - processes sheet materials ranging from .060 to .500 thick
  • Roll-fed thin gauge thermoforming – using sheet material from 1.5 mils to .060 thick – (Note: Productive Plastics does NOT do thin gauge thermoforming)

Productive Plastics’ core competency is in cut-sheet heavy gauge plastic thermoforming with manufacturing expertise in applications and industries such as:

  • Heavy truck – fender wells, front and rear bumpers and interior trim components
  • Fitness equipment – enclosures for treadmills, bikes and universal weights
  • Signage – large decorative signs for exterior use
  • Agricultural equipment – cowlings, fenders and dash components
  • Construction equipment – engine covers and cab interiors

Heavy gauge thermoforming process using vacuum forming

Advantages of the Vacuum Thermoforming Process

Custom plastic thermoforming provides the OEM marketplace design flexibility to implement intricate enclosure designs on products that traditionally require injection molding. Additional features of the thermoforming process include:

  • Low cost production tooling – Up to 80% over injection molding with unlimited tool life
  • Cost effective component pricing for volumes of 250 – 3000 annually
  • Rapid product development cycle, production tooling 10 weeks or less
  • Molded in colors and textures eliminating costly secondary finishing operations

Plastic Thermoforming Technology Basics

Unlike the core and cavity tooling required of injection molding, custom thermoforming utilizes either a positive (core) or negative (cavity) tooling, subsequently thermoformed components can be controlled from single side of the thermoformed sheet. In addition, as the sheet is stretched into its final shape, the parts wall thickness varies based upon the geometry of the part. Parts with generous draft angle and corner radii will maintain a more consistent wall thickness than those with sharper radii and steeper draft angles.
Additional design considerations of the process are:

  • Stretch and draw ratios
  • Process tolerance capability
  • Material selection
  • Undercut and back draft conditions
  • Government and safety agency requirements

Please Contact Productive Plastics engineering for a more in-depth design discussion of plastics thermoforming.

Thermoformed medical reagent tray

Plastic Thermoforming Materials

  • ABS/PVC alloys for ease of forming
  • Acrylic for applications requiring clear or translucent parts
  • PVC/Acrylic for deep draw applications
  • HPDE used in low temperature and low cost applications
  • PC/ABS provides high impact strength and UL requirements

Above are examples of the most commonly used materials for thermoformed components. Other materials with a wide range of properties are available.

Terminology Note

Productive Plastics and the plastics industry typically use the terms “thermoforming” and “forming” interchangeably. So plastic thermoforming is the same as plastic forming.

Contact Productive Plastics for Plastic Thermoforming and Heavy Gauge Thermoforming

Please Contact Productive Plastics, one of the most innovative thermoforming companies, for assistance or to get a quote for heavy gauge thermoforming and custom plastic thermoforming contract manufacturing.

Request a free Heavy Gauge Plastic Thermoforming Process and Design Guide from Productive Plastics.


  Productive Plastics is one of the Productive Companies, that also includes Sensigraphics and Productive Industrial Finishing.