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Productive Plastics Exhibiting at Design-2-Part Uncasville CT June 23 & 24

Productive Plastics is excited to be exhibiting again at Design-2-Part this year. If you or any of your team will be attending the Design-2-Part show in Uncasville CT on June 23 & 24, please stop by our booths (314 & 316). Talk plastic thermoforming with our experts and get hands on with a selection of our thermoformed parts and multi-part assembly samples from solutions provided to medical device, kiosk, material handling, and other industries. Our team will be at your disposal to discuss how Productive Plastics and plastic thermoforming can add to the success of your next project.

Visit us at Booths 314 & 316

  • Advantages of heavy gauge plastic thermoforming
  • Thermoplastic material options and performance
  • Design and tooling capabilities
  • Conversions from metal, fiberglass, or injection molding processes
  • Industry applications and standards compliance
  • Assembly and surface finishing value added operations

Use your mouse to rotate and interact with feature callouts on the plastic thermoformed kiosk fascia below

Webinar Recording Available: Replacing Metal with Thermoformed Plastics

Evan Gilham, our President, gave a presentation on Replacing Metal with Thermoformed plastics. This should help guide the decision process when considering heavy-gauge thermoforming and includes a case study. This is available 24/7 on our YouTube channel.

Technical Webinar Content

  • Cost comparisons
  • Complexity Comparisons
  • Strength to Weight Comparisons
  • Adapting Existing Designs
  • Design capabilities
  • Material performance
  • Pro tips on how to maximize your design for thermoforming
  • Sheet metal to plastic thermoforming conversion case study
  • Moderated Q&A session


Stay tuned for future technical plastic thermoforming webinars from Productive Plastics

The Thermoforming Design Guide and Metal to Plastic Comparison and Conversion Guide, both featured in our recent webinar, can be downloaded via our technical library

Join our Free Technical Webinar – Replacing Metal with Thermoformed Plastics

Join us on May 12th at 2pm and our Chief Operations Officer, Evan Gilham, will teach you the ins and outs of the plastic thermoforming process and how it compares to steel and sheet metal fabricated designs.

Gain the technical knowledge to accurately evaluate if your sheet metal design is a prime candidate for plastic thermoforming.

Discover if converting to a plastic thermoforming design would reduce costs, increase material performance, or present enhanced design capabilities for your application.

Evan will cover some key topics and comparisons between the two processes:

  • Cost comparisons
  • Design capabilities
  • Material performance
  • Pro tips on how to maximize your design for thermoforming
  • Sheet metal to plastic thermoforminng conversion case study
  • Moderated Q&A session
  • Technical thermoforming guides available for download post

Introducing the New productiveplastics.com

The newly improved website features new graphics and images, a wider desktop browser experience, better mobile viewing, and improved usability. Changes include interactive thermoformed plastic part images, updated and expanded plastic thermoforming content, industry specific thermoforming pages, and technical information.

The new website continues to feature the Productive Ideas blog with its ongoing commentary on thermoforming technology issues. Four technical guides are also available to download:

  • Heavy Gauge Plastic Thermoforming Process and Design Guide
  • Fiberglass to Plastic Thermoforming Comparison and Conversion Guide
  • Metal to Plastic Thermoforming Comparison and Conversion Guide
  • Injection Molding to Plastic Thermoforming Comparison and Conversion Guide

Weighing in on Product Material Selection – Plastic, Metal, or Fiberglass

Regardless of the industry your product serves, whether it includes seating components or wall paneling for  bus, rail, or aircraft, requires enclosures or parts for medical devices, or is designed with exterior casings for industrial equipment and electrical components, lightweight material has become essential to creating the ideal product that meets the needs of the end user.

Lightweight offers numerous advantages

Reduced fuel and energy costs – mass of a vehicle has a direct relationship to fuel and energy consumption

Lowered emissions – reduced fuel and energy consumption equates to lower emissions

Reduced maintenance costs – reduction in mass correlates to longer life of components due to less load bearing stress over time (moving and mechanical components, brakes, tires, propulsion systems)

Reduced logistical costs – lighter weight parts are less expensive and easier to install, ship, relocate, or handle

Weight Comparison – Thermoplastic, Fiberglass, and Metal

Lower material specific gravity (mass) means the finished component will be lighter and contribute to a lower overall product weight. There are countless variations and formulations of thermoplastic, fiberglass, and metal materials, each with its own unique specific gravity (details can be found on material manufacturers’ websites and material data sheets). However, if you look at the average weight of some of the most common brands and types of materials available, you can derive some basic comparisons.

Plastic thermoformed parts are 6 times lighter than steel and half the weight of aluminum.

Plastic thermoformed parts are 30 – 40% lighter than fiberglass counterparts.

thermoplastic, metal, and fiberglass average specific gravity and weight comparisson

If reducing your product’s weight is an important factor in your industry, then thermoplastic and the thermoforming process should be a consideration for your current or future projects.

Please download our complimentary material – process comparison guides and conversion guides — for more information. They are full of data that is valuable to decision makers, design engineers and every member of an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) project team

Productive Plastics is more than just a plastic thermoforming manufacturer. We strive to be your advisor throughout the entire product development process by bringing over 60 years of process, design, material, and finishing expertise to assist in manufacturing your component parts and products in the best and lightest way. Contact Us for further assistance or to request a quote.

Understanding Heavy vs thin gauge plastic thermoforming

While the difference in starting thickness between heavy gauge thermoforming (sometimes referred to as thick gauge or sheet fed thermoforming ) and thin gauge (also referred to as roll-fed) thermoforming may only begin as a few tenths of an inch in part thickness, the two are utilized in different applications than one another as the manufacturing techniques, machinery required, and project scope differ.

The machinery required is unique for each process category, meaning most plastic thermoforming manufacturers specialize in only one or the other. For instance, Productive Plastics is a custom heavy gauge plastic thermoforming manufacturer. So, you can save some time when searching for a processor if you know which category of thermoforming is the right solution for your application.

Here are the essential differences between heavy and thin gauge plastic thermoforming:

Plastic Thermoforming Heavy Gauge Thin Gauge
Manufactured Part Thickness (approximate) .060 -.375″ 1.5 – 9.5 mm < .125” < 3mm
Machinery Type Sheet Fed Roll Fed
Thermoplastic Materials Used (Most Common) ABS
Polycarbonate
HDPE
Polypropylene (many material variants available)
PETG
PET
Clear PVC
Styrene
Polypropylene  
Annual Volume Low – Mid Volume < 10,000 High Volume > 10,000
Typical Applications -Medical device enclosures
-Transportation interior parts (window masks, wall and ceiling panels, seating, luggage racks)
-Kiosk enclosures
-Industrial equipment covers
-Electronic equipment enclosures
-Clamshell packaging
-Food service packaging
-Disposable cups, plates, and trays
-Food containers
-Small medical device packaging

Does your application favor heavy gauge thermoforming? If so, contact us or download our Heavy Gauge Plastic Thermoforming Design Guide for more detailed information on the features and benefits of plastic thermoforming and to explore how Productive Plastics can provide manufacturing solutions for your product.

Please contact Productive Plastics for more information on the thermoforming process
Please download the heavy gauge thermoforming design guide from Productive Plastics

Plastic Thermoforming, Pressure Forming, and Vacuum Forming – What’s the Difference?

The terms “plastic thermoforming”, “pressure  forming”, and “vacuum forming” are all used to describe plastic forming processes. While similar, there are subtle and important differences in these terms and processes that may not be well known outside of the plastic manufacturing industry.

Here is a brief breakdown to get you talking thermoforming like a pro in less than a minute:

Plastic Thermoforming is the generic broad label given to the plastic manufacturing process that heats thermoplastic sheet material (thermo) and then applies pressure or vacuum to form into a 3-dimensional shape (forming).

Pressure and Vacuum Forming are the 2 most common plastic thermoforming manufacturing techniques, under the umbrella of plastic thermoforming. They differ primarily in the method of applying pressure/vacuum to transform the heated plastic sheet into the desired 3-dimensional shape.

Pressure Forming Process

Pressure Forming Process

Vacuum Forming Process

Vacuum Forming Process
 

Plastic Thermoforming


 

Pressure Forming

Vacuum Forming

 Pressure Forming IllustrationVacuum forming Illustration
Process DescriptionSheet thermoplastic material is heated until pliable. Positive pressure is then applied above the heated sheet, pressing the material into the surface of a mold to create the desired 3-dimensional part shape.

 

Full Disclosure – The air under the sheet is also evacuated to assist in stretching the material over the mold, but the positive pressure applied is up to 5x greater.

Sheet thermoplastic material is heated until pliable and placed over a mold. The air is then evacuated between the heated sheet and mold creating a vacuum that pulls the material onto the surface of the mold to create the desired 3-dimensional part shape.

 

 

Watch a 1-minute video of a part being vacuum formed.

Key Benefits
  • Aesthetic surface finishes (texture, branding, in mold design)
  • Often eliminates need for post-production painting
  • High level of detail (rivals injection molding)
  • Tighter radius formation
  • Greater undercut depth and definition
  • In mold vents, louver, and attachment point geometry
  • Larger part capability
  • Faster cycle times
  • Lower tooling costs
ToolingNegative  toolingPositive  tooling (typically)
 

 

Primary Part Surface (Dimensional & Aesthetic)

 

 

 

Outside (part surface contacting the tool)

 

 

Inside (part surface contacting the tool)

Application Examples
  • Device Enclosures (medical, dental, kiosk, electrical, etc.)
  • Transportation (air, mass transit, rail) interior components (seating, window masks, wall and ceiling paneling, etc)
  • Material handling equipment interior components
  • Recreation and utility vehicle components
  • Food service components
  • Handling trays and dunnage
  • Pick up truck bedliners
  • Waste water management components
  • Portable toilet components
  • Large equipment enclosures
  • Agricultural related equipment and components

In addition to pressure forming and vacuum forming, there are other methods, such as twin sheet thermoforming (to be covered in a future post), that give plastic thermoforming a vast portfolio of manufacturing capabilities that offer product solutions to a wide range of industries and applications. Plastic thermoforming often outperforms other processes and materials such as fiberglass (FRP) , metal, or injection molding.

Want to learn more about which plastic thermoforming process is the right solution for your project?

Please contact us.

Please contact Productive Plastics for more information on the thermoforming process

5 Questions to ask your manufacturer to understand if they can repeatably produce high quality parts.

The heavy gauge plastic thermoforming is an agile process capable of producing highly detailed, durable, and tight tolerance parts with almost limitless design possibilities. It provides a cost effective and fast to market solution for a number of applications such as Medical Devices and Rail and Aircraft Interiors. To take advantage of thermoforming, you need to leverage a team with the technical expertise and focus on execution and quality to ensure that you receive a high-quality product every time.

Not every plastic thermoforming processor is equally capable. Issues could arise from poorly designed tooling or poor tooling mediums, lack of processing controls, lack of quality controls, or no repeatable work instructions. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant where the food quality depends on the chef working? You want to ensure you receive the same high-quality product every time.

1. Does the manufacturer have an accredited quality control program?

ISO9001-2015-Certification-Productive Plastics

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 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 focuses on the removal of inefficient practices in manufacturing, management, and administration operations, with regular evaluations of current processes with emphasis on continual improvement. Companies that are committed to following Lean Manufacturing techniques tend to have very efficient manufacturing operations, greater investments in equipment, and produce quality parts with a low rejection rate. This will lead to lower part costs from labor as well as a higher on-time delivery percentage.

4. Does the thermoforming partner have dedicated engineering experts 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. Tooling is also a byproduct of part design and leveraging experts can help avoid downstream issues.

5. Does the processor conduct a “Define and Discover” Innovation Engineering approach to seek avenues for collaborative project development and management?

Collaborating early on helps to ensure that the appropriate decision is being made and executed. We for example: start with the question, is this a good application for thermoforming? Sometimes we find ourselves recommending other processes, as your partner should be someone you can trust and leverage.

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. Finding a partner that can tailor a solution to your specific needs will help you to reduce costs while meeting quality requirements consistently.

At Productive Plastics, we go to great lengths to ensure quality

  • ISO 9001:2008 certified thermoformed plastics manufacturer and designer
  • Lean Manufacturing committed enterprise – Implemented 1998
  • Comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS)
    • Over 6 decades of thermoforming process and quality refinement (oven calibration and thermal environment management, ultrasonic measurement of material sag, and more)
    • Industry leading quality management procedures in every stage of the manufacturing process from design to delivery – High level of documentation, standardization, and tracability.
  • Tooling and Design
    • Dedicated part and tooling engineering team managing supplier performance and tooling construction. Design reviews to ensure expectations are met.
  • Investment in Technology
    • Continual investment in technology, such as the newest sensors, to ensure repeatability.

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.

Please contact Productive Plastics for more information on the thermoforming process

Where does your part get painted?

The manufacturing supply chain can be long and complex. Managing independent suppliers for design, tooling construction, assembly, part painting, and more can be challenging, and each has an influence on the quality, timing, and cost of the finished product.

For custom plastic thermoforming, post-production part painting is a key link in this supply chain. That is why Productive Plastics decided to bring our own painting operation under the same roof as our manufacturing facility.

Our cutting edge painting and finishing facility is solely dedicated to meeting the surface finishing needs of custom heavy gauge thermoformed parts manufactured by Productive Plastics.

What are the Benefits to Our Customers?

Reduced Risk

If a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then strengthening or removing that link reduces the risk of a break. Consolidating the painting and manufacturing operation at Productive Plastics means that there is one fewer supplier to manage and monitor. This also ensures accountability, as it avoids any “finger pointing” between a thermoformer and a painter.

Reduced Cost

In-house facilities and complete control over the painting process reduces or eliminates the logistical, quality control, and transportation costs associated with an off-site supplier.

Reduced Lead Time

Our painting facility is 100 feet from the manufacturing floor, meaning that parts can be painted, cured, and ready for shipping or assembly in the same day that they are manufactured.

Increased Process and Quality Control

Incorporating a painting facility into the operation at Productive Plastics allowed us direct control of the painting process and quality management.  We implemented the same lean manufacturing techniques, proven processes, and quality controls and traceability that we have been evolving on the manufacturing floor for over 6 decades.

Strategically consolidating the manufacturing supply chain is just one of the ways Productive Plastics is constantly improving our ability to contribute to your product’s success. Contact us and give us the opportunity to show you how we can provide much more than a high quality plastic part.

Please contact Productive Plastics for more information on the thermoforming process

Choosing Between Injection Molding vs Plastic Thermoforming: Part Size Has a Big Impact

When comparing a heavy gauge plastic thermoforming process and injection molding process to manufacture a part, aside from production volume, the size of the part is the largest factor that can impact the cost and even process feasibility.

In essence, the larger the part the more expensive it becomes to produce with injection molding. Comparatively, part size has a very minimal cost effect on plastic thermoformed parts. The breakeven point on cost between the two manufacturing processes (Deciding Between Plastic Thermoforming and Injection Molding – The Choice is Not Always Obvious) increases as part size increases to approximately 5,000 parts or higher depending greatly on how large the part is.

Why Does Part Size Affect Cost and Manufacturing Process Selection?

The injection molding process requires a very large up-front capital investment in the tooling and equipment needed to produce a part. This is because the nature of the process involves a very highly engineered 2-sided mold to create a part by feeding thermoplastic resin into a heated barrel with a rotating screw. The screw delivers the raw material forward collecting under pressure the amount required to fill the mold cavity and then injecting into the mold at high pressure and velocity. This action requires highly structured molds and equipment capable of withstanding very high clamping pressure.

As part size and dimensions increase, the complexity of design, engineering, and calibration required to construct, install, and process this 2-sided mold results in a significant increase in the cost of equipment, tooling and setup. The per-part production cost and lead time may also see an appreciable increase as the part size increases requiring much more robust molds and equipment. These increased capital expenditures will result in greater investment and overhead costs calculated in the piece price. Injection molding machines have a limited total mold size capability but can often accommodate multiple parts within the construction of a mold. Smaller part sizes equate to a higher number of parts manufactured per mold and machinery cycle. Larger part sizes decrease the number of parts that can be manufactured per mold and cycle.

Think of a muffin tray with 3-inch diameter muffin molds. Now take that same size tray but with 6 or even 10-inch diameter muffin molds and you imagine the impact on production and cost. In fact, most standard injection molding machines can only accommodate a maximum part size of 4’ x 4’. Larger machinery is available but is also drastically more expensive.

The heavy gauge plastic thermoforming process involves considerably less pressure, and most applications only require a single one-sided tool to produce a part. Additionally, only one part is formed per cycle in heavy gauge thermoforming applications cam lead to a significantly reduced initial tooling. While an increase in part size will still increase the tooling investment, the impact on cost is substantially less when compared to injection molding. Heavy gauge thermoforming equipment has oven zoning and variable sheet size capabilities which allow for a wide range of part sizes to be efficiently formed from the same equipment investment. This helps the thermoforming processes remain agile and makes scaling production for larger part sizes a relatively easy process. Since most heavy gauge thermoforming operations utilize cell-based manufacturing and CNC part trimming, a larger part can be produced with little impact, other than increased material, on per part cost, cycle time, and lead time. Productive Plastics can also manufacture part sizes as large as 9’ x 7’ providing a much larger part size capacity than injection molding.

Large part size infographic

Terminology Note

Productive Plastics and the plastics industry typically use the terms "vacuum forming" and "vacuum thermoforming" interchangeably. Misspellings include "vacuumforming" and "vacuumthermoforming".

Looking for more technical information?

Download the Thermoforming Design Guide, Process Comparisons, Conversion Guides, and other useful thermoforming information from our technical resource library.

Contact Us

Ready to explore how Productive Plastics can add to the success of your project?