The heavy gauge plastic thermoforming process can produce a very versatile range of highly detailed, durable, and tight tolerance parts with almost limitless design possibilities. The process is fast, cost effective, and ideally suited for a large list of markets and applications. However, like all manufacturing processes, plastic thermoforming requires technical expertise, detailed operating procedures, engineered tooling design and construction, and a comprehensive quality management system to ensure the consistent production of the most cost-effective solutions at the desired level of quality.
As such, not every plastic thermoforming processor is equally capable. Contract manufacturers with poor tooling, processing and quality controls can end up delaying your project or OEM product and increase costs. Productive Plastics recommends asking the following questions to gauge if a custom plastic manufacturer will be able to consistently produce parts at your required level of quality and dimension tolerances.
1. Does the manufacturer have an accredited quality control program?
Ensuring that your manufacturer has adopted an accredited quality control program, such as ISO 9001, will indicate that the company has an active quality control process in place that has been evaluated and certified by an industry recognized third party. The accreditation documentation, often available on the manufacturer’s website, will give you detailed information on what aspects of the company have been certified and supporting quality documentation can often be requested from the processor.
2. Is the manufacturer’s facility organized and clean?
This may seem like a trivial point, but it can be a key indicator to a company’s commitment to quality. A company with a well-organized manufacturing floor is much more likely to take quality, efficiency, process improvement, and safety seriously. If you are not offered a tour of the facility, ask for ne and witness firsthand the quality control measures in action. Cleanliness and organization are vital since thermoforming is an “open mold process” meaning airborne dirt could end up as an inclusion in the finished part and become a cosmetic flaw.
3. Does the contract manufacturer utilize efficient manufacturing methodologies and conduct process improvement events, such as Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen events?
Lean Manufacturing practices are focused on the removal of inefficient practices in manufacturing, management, and administration operations and part of the methodology is the regular evaluation of current processes with emphasis on continual improvement. Companies that are committed to following Lean Manufacturing techniques often have a very efficient manufacturing operation, state of the art equipment, and produce quality parts with a low rejection rate.
4. Does the thermoforming processor have dedicated engineering experts on staff (in-house) to provide tooling design and construction project management?
Properly designed and constructed tooling is the foundation of plastic thermoforming and is essential to producing a high quality consistent product. Poorly engineered tooling can result in part dimension variations, surface abnormalities, and other defects. See 6 Common Thermoforming Quality Issues Actually Caused by Improper Tooling.
5. Does the processor conduct a “Define and Discover” Innovation Engineering approach to seek avenues for collaborative project development and management?
This collaboration innovation technique sets the stage for a smooth product development which is more likely to meet performance and delivery expectations.
Ultimately, each project is unique. A commodity type part will likely not require the same level of quality in detail and precision as a multi-part medical device assembly. However, finding a reliable custom manufacturer that can produce your parts consistently, efficiently, and to your specification is a paramount factor to the success of any product.
At Productive Plastics, we go to great lengths to ensure quality
Have more questions about the role of quality manufacturing for your parts and components? Interested in exploring plastic thermoforming solutions for your OEM product?
Please contact us.