Transitioning your product manufacturing process from fiberglass to plastic thermoforming can allow you to capitalize on some major upgrades, benefits, and cost savings for your project. (See some of the advantages of plastic thermoforming vs. fiberglass in a previous post).
However, the process of transitioning from one manufacturing material and process to another, and doing it correctly, may be more complex than simply handing over the existing design and tooling. Below are the basic steps and considerations for the transition process that Productive Plastics has found to help ensure you get the best results from the conversion.
- Choosing the right plastic thermoforming manufacturer and process
- Plastic thermoforming encompasses a number of sub processes such as vacuum and pressure forming. Consult with your thermoformer to aid in selecting the ideal process for your application. Visit our thermoforming process pages for more information on each process.
- Select a thermoforming contract manufacturer experienced in processing a wide variety of material options with a strong understanding of those material properties.
- Choose a manufacturer with experience in converting applications from fiberglass to plastic thermoforming to avoid common pitfalls that can delay or increase the cost of the transition.
- Strong consideration should be given to a manufacturer with in house design engineers. The onsite expertise will help to ensure a smooth technical transition from fiberglass to plastic thermoforming.
- Select a manufacturer that is up to date with best practice methodology such as ISO, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, etc.
- Adapting your existing product design to the plastic thermoforming process
- Manufacturing techniques, process capabilities, and material properties differ from fiberglass to plastic thermoforming. This is a good thing. The differences are what motivated you to consider converting your product in the first place. These differences will, more than likely, necessitate modifications to your existing design and tooling to meet your product’s needs and to maximize the advantages available with the thermoforming process.
- A design engineer, with plastic thermoforming experience, can adapt your product’s design to harness the benefits of the thermoforming process. (Productive Plastics utilizes our experienced in-house design engineers to help our customers with process conversions).
- Tighter part tolerances
- Reduction in part wall thickness
- Complex or aesthetic design enhancements unachievable or not cost effective with fiberglass
- Textured surface finish
- Lighter weight than FRP
- Consistent surface gloss
- Material selection
- An important consideration when manufacturing a thermoformed plastic part is the selection of appropriate material. There are a multitude of different types of plastic materials, each with their own specific characteristics, properties, strengths, and weaknesses. Communicating your product’s requirements and industry material standards early in the conversion process will allow your thermoformer to assist in selecting the ideal material for the application. Learn more about thermoforming material considerations and options.
- Properly designed and constructed tooling sets the foundation for tight tolerances and a high quality part. This becomes increasingly more important for complex and multi-part designs. Having your existing tooling evaluated by your thermoforming contract manufacturer as early in the transition process as possible can have a large impact on the lead time of your first part run.
- Choose a thermoforming contract manufacturer experienced with tooling materials options and processes to assure the right tool choice for your application and product life.
- Prototype testing
- Prototype development should be considered with a testing plan that includes dimensional as well as properties evaluation. Engaging in early involvement, support, and collaboration with a thermoforming manufacturer, like Productive Plastics, can aid in creating a successful verification plan.
Productive Plastics is top contract manufacturer for heavy gauge thermoforming, including vacuum forming and pressure forming. Contact us or request our complimentary thermoforming design guide for more information.