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Tooling Selection Guide for Thermoforming

Finding the right tool for your thermoformed part can be a complex decision with potentially large implications on the quality, cost, geometry, and surface finish of your project. Please use the following information to help guide you through the process of matching the appropriate tooling design to the needs of your next thermoforming project.

Tooling Selection Guide for Thermoforming

Some Common Features of Modern Tooling:

Dimensional performance: With temperature control we control a variable that would otherwise affect material shrinkage. If the tool changes temperature the resulting part will not shrink the same and therefore be inconsistent dimensionally.

Heat conduction: The movement of heat from one solid to another. In order to properly cool the formed part we want to move heat evenly from both sides. The side against the tool depends on conduction to remove the heat from the part, transfer through the mold material, and then through the temperature control system.

Ability to withstand pressure: Some materials have less resistance to deformation under pressure.

Tool surface quality: This would be the gloss, texture and presence of surface imperfections. Some tool materials have the ability to be polished or textured depending on the requirements.

Loose piece fitment and performance: In order to form parts with undercuts movable or loose sections are needed in the tool design. (This allows part removal from the tool) These “loose pieces”need to maintain an accurate fit in the mold to minimize the mark-off around the mounting area. They also will move or slide within the mold fit surface. Therefore mold surface and loose piece ware will relate to an increased mark-off or witness line. Some materials ware better and have a longer performance life.

Texture: Texture relating to mold surface is the ability of that surface to be altered with a grain or custom pattern.

Tooling features comparison chart

What are the Benefits of Temperature Controlled Aluminum Tooling?

While not always the case, you don’t have to look at the information above for long to realize a temperature controlled aluminum tool, whether machined, cast, or both, is most often the ideal tool for a thermoforming application. The reason is that the thermoforming process uses heated plastic and airflow to create the parts for your project and the proper management of that heat and airflow through every stage of production is pivotal in creating a high quality part and efficient process. Simply put, a properly designed aluminum tool with temperature control accomplishes this extremely well.

temp_controlled_aluminum_tooling_features_and_benefits_chart

6 Common Thermoforming Quality Issues Actually Caused by Improper Tooling

Many manufacturers utilizing heavy gauge thermoformed components for their projects often view tooling as no more than a cost variable on the quotes that they receive. Consequently, favorable purchase decisions are often given to the thermoformer that can quote the lowest tooling cost. Many thermoformers will in turn strive to present the lowest tooling cost capable by commissioning inadequate tooling design, material, and mold manufacturing quality. The result is certainly a lower tooling quote. CFOs and Purchasers rejoice! However, it may ultimately cost you more than you bargained for in the end.

Here are 6 common thermoforming quality issues that are actually caused by improper and inadequate tooling:

  Quality Issue Cause Effect
1 Warpage Improper temperature controlled tool design and manufacture Unequal heating and cooling of plastic material surface area
2 Dimensional Inconsistencies Improper temperature controlled tool design and manufacture When the mold is in continuing production the temp will not be consistent over a batch of parts, resulting in inconsistent shrinkage
3 Part Thickness Inconsistencies Inadequate and/or improper vacuum venting in tool design and manufacture As the part is  formed over the mold, inconsistent or inadequate venting leads to thickness inconsistencies
4 Lack of Detail in Part Geometry and Aesthetics Inadequate and/or improper vacuum venting in tool design and manufacture As the part is  formed over the mold, inconsistent or inadequate venting in areas of geometry or aesthetic design fail to produce the desired result
5 Quality of Surface Finish (texture and gloss variation) Improper tooling material selection and/or inadequate tool surface finishing Tool surface porosity and/or surface finishing may result in unwanted surface texture, dimpling, or gloss reduction
6 Chill marks Inadequate and/or improper vacuum venting and temperature control in tool design and manufacture Wavy undulations in plastic surface occur due to trapped air and unequal material cooling

How do I avoid these quality issues?

Most of the issues stated above can be avoided and overcome with an experienced plastic thermoforming manufacturer committed to high integrity processing that utilizes proper tooling design, tooling material selection, and a high quality tooling manufacturer. This will raise your initial tooling investment, but the resulting savings and benefits associated with reduced lead times, reduced part defects, increased aesthetics, and a higher quality part are tangible. See our Tooling Engineering page for more information on tooling.

Did you know that using or converting to thermoformed plastic from fiberglass (FRP/GRP) can save you approximately 26% on tooling cost depending on your estimated annual usage (volume)?

 

Click here for more info on the benefits of thermoplastic vs. fiberglass.

 

5 Reasons to Upgrade Fiberglass Interior Parts to Thermoplastic

Railcar, mass transit, and aircraft operators and manufacturers face a multitude of challenges when considering new designs or fleet modernization plans for the interiors of their equipment. Cost reductions, stricter industry regulations, decreasing vehicle weight, and maintenance costs are just a few of the top concerns that must be addressed to ensure a successful project.

If any of this sounds familiar and your new design or existing interior parts are comprised of fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP/GRP), Productive Plastics believes that you may want to consider the advantages of converting to thermoformed blended polycarbonate plastic parts.

Both plastic thermoforming and fiberglass molding can be used to make applications for the transportation interior industry. However, blended polycarbonate and the thermoforming process used to manufacture parts from this material have some very distinct advantages over fiberglass that should and do motivate railcar and mass transit operators and manufacturers to convert.

1. Lightweight

Heavy weight is high cost. This has been a tenant in the aviation industry for a long time and is slowly being adopted by the rest of the transportation industry as factors affecting operating costs and environmental impact are examined. Lighter weight offers savings in both fuel and energy consumption, and decreases carbon footprint and operating costs. For example, a reduction of 800 lbs (~360 kg) to an average city transit bus can equate to a 2-3% savings in fuel consumption, according to a 2010 study conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additional benefits are a tangible increase in the life of vehicle components, such as brakes and propulsion systems.

Thermoformed plastic is lightweight and can offer a substantially reduced part weight when compared to fiberglass. Depending on the type of thermoplastic polycarbonate blended material used and a few other factors, the average thermoformed part is 30% lighter than their fiberglass equivalents. A fact reinforced by comparing specific gravity weights of raw material product on industry material provider websites from companies such as Bayer MaterialScience or KYDEX,LLC.

 2. Overall Manufacturing Cost is Lower and Lead Times Faster

The manufacturing process of a fiberglass reinforced plastic part is relatively complex and labor intensive. Production often requires multiple tools to complete a single part. This increases both tooling and labor costs, and results in a relatively lengthy production time required to generate a finished piece.

The thermoforming process, on the other hand, is highly automated, relatively simple, and typically requires less labor. Most applications utilize only a single tool per part. Consequently, lead times tend to be shorter, and the tooling and labor costs reduced when compared to the fiberglass molding process. From a purely process perspective, thermoforming is often both faster and cheaper than the fiberglass counterpart in smaller production volumes of 250-3000 parts annually, a volume conducive to the transit industry and an advantage that is attractive to most decision makers.

3. Greater Design Freedom and Aesthetic Flexibility

One of the unique characteristics of the thermoforming process and material is its ability to produce extremely detailed and complex parts. Diverse surface texturing options, precise tolerances for mated parts, and complex geometry design are just a few of the possible applications that are otherwise difficult or costly to fabricate with fiberglass.  The availability of colored plastic raw material can, in most cases,  also remove the additional cost and time associated with the secondary process of part painting. These advantages give designers the freedom to create complex modern designs that are more aesthetically pleasing and functional.

4. Environmentally Friendly and Industry Compliant

As companies and passengers become more eco conscious and industry standards and government regulations increase, material providers have responded by creating products able to meet the challenging demands of the mass transit market. Thermoplastic raw material providers, such as Bayer MaterialScience and KYDEX,LLC, have a variety of blended polycarbonate and other thermoplastic materials options that are not only compliant with U.S. and European industry standards, but are also recyclable and VOC free, a trait not shared by most transit industry fiberglass.

5. Extremely Durable

Thermoplastic polycarbonate blends are, on average, 4 times more impact resistant than traditional fiberglass. The flexible and durable nature of thermoformed plastic material allows impact forces to be deflected over the materials surface, allowing the material to recover from impacts that would otherwise crack the more rigid and unyielding material of a fiberglass part. The benefits are an increase in part life and a reduction in part replacement and maintenance costs. Most transit thermoplastic is also highly resistance to stains, chemical cleaners, and graffiti.

A few considerations if you are planning to convert to thermoformed polycarbonate plastic:

This is easily a topic that could populate an entirely separate article. However, there are some important points, worth mentioning here, that should be taken into consideration to help ensure the success of your thermoplastic project.

Choosing the right thermoforming company

Custom thermoforming plastic part manufacturers are plentiful and often specialize in specific thermoforming techniques, so it is important to choose a company that posses expertise and experience in the markets and processes that coincide with your project’s needs. Ideally, for interior vehicle parts you should be seeking a custom thermoforming company that has extensive mass transit experience, top notch quality control, and in house design and reverse engineering capabilities (if you are converting from an existing part). A company that also incorporates lean manufacturing techniques and secondary assembly operations is often able to deliver the most cost effective and shortest lead time solutions.

(Click here for more information on choosing the right plastic manufacturer for your project)

Raw material selection

The polycarbonate blended thermoplastic that is used for mass transit applications is typically blended with a number of other materials and additives to achieve the desired properties required to meet the demands of the mass transit industry. This has resulted in a wide selection of available raw material products from providers, each with varying performance characteristics in tensile strength, flammability, chemical resistance, and weight to name just a few and engineered to meet industry standards such as EN 45545, DIN 5510-2, NF P 92-501 ( -504, – 505), NF F 16-101/102, FRA Type I, FRA Type II, ASTM E162, ASTM E662, SMP-800C, or BSS 7239. Partnering with a thermoforming manufacturer experienced in mass transit applications can be an invaluable asset in assisting with the proper material selection.

(For more information on the proper selection of industry compliant raw thermoplastic material for you project, please contact us)

With many part material options and manufacturing processes available, each with their own set of pros and cons, there is no shortage of choice for the transportation interior industry. While thermoformed polycarbonate blends may not be the answer for every application, it quite clearly provides solutions for the mass transit interior market that other materials and manufacturing processes are hard pressed to match.

Visit our Fiberglass vs. Thermoforming webpage for additional information and comparisons.

Choosing the Right Plastic Thermoforming Company Top 5 Qualifications – Part 3 The Importance of Tooling

In the world of custom plastic thermoforming, the needs of each customer, project, and process are unique. Deadlines, material requirements, cost, and quality are just a few of the variables that development teams face when choosing a plastic thermoforming manufacturer.

Just as each project is unique, each plastic thermoforming company is unique and it is essential to find one that specializes and excels in the areas that are key to your particular project’s success. Choosing the right company for the job is a vital link in your project development chain that can either streamline and strengthen it, or breakdown the process entirely.

With over 30 years in the industry, we at Productive Plastics understand the challenges that you face when shopping for a thermoforming company that will be an asset to your project rather than a liability. So, we have put together a number of qualifications and questions for you to reference then next time you are looking for a company to fill your thermoforming needs. This 5 part series will feature 5 qualifications that we feel are vitally important factors in choosing the right plastic thermoforming manufacturer.

We hope that you find this material informative and helpful in the search for your thermoforming solutions.


Qualification #3: The Importance of Tooling

Qualifying questions:
  1. What type of material is used in your tooling construction?
  2. Are your tools temperature controlled?
  3. Does your company utilize low cost prototype tooling for creating prototypes?
  4. Does your company use CNC trim fixtures?

Tooling is a critical component in the successful manufacturing of a high quality plastic thermoformed part. It is an often an underestimated link in the manufacturing process chain and customers have a tendency to view tooling as a solely peripheral expense that should be minimized. However, while cost is always an important factor, quality tooling does have value and should be treated as an investment in your part’s successful production. Beware of the pitfalls of selecting a thermoforming manufacturer that quotes drastically reduced tooling costs. This option may initially be fiscally appealing, but can be an ingredient for disaster when production begins.

Poorly engineered and constructed tooling can result in:

  • Drastically increased probability of defects
  • Increased costs
  • Increased lead times

Tooling design considerations:

1. Tooling Material

The material used to construct a tool has a direct impact on the quality of a thermoformed part. In almost all cases, the ideal material of choice is aluminum. This material is cost effective, responsive to temperature control, and capable being machined to exact design specifications.

2. Temperature control

Since thermoforming requires the application of heat in the production process, tools must be temperature controlled to eliminate heat related defects and assure the production of a tight tolerance part.

3. Trimming

Once a part is formed, excess material is trimmed with the aid of a trimming fixture created from the original tooling design file and trimmed using computer controlled routers to meet exact design requirements.

More precise part requirements can be met by utilizing a CNC machined trim fixture created from the part/tool original CAD file. This process also reduces setup time and lead time.

4. Bonding/Assembly

If your project requires sheet metal bonding or other secondary assembly, then engineered fixture tooling will be required to ensure location accuracy and tolerance adherence.

Click here for more information on tooling details and considerations.

In our next issue we will review our fourth qualification, the correlation between lean manufacturing and choosing the right thermoforming company.

Productive Plastics Qualifications:

 

  • Productive Plastics utilizes fully engineered, temperature controlled, and aluminum tooling. (learn more)
  • Productive Plastics offers prototype tooling  (learn more)
  • Productive Plastics employs the use of CNC machined trim fixtures to produce extremely tight tolerance parts (learn more)

Contact us and let Productive Plastics apply some innovation and thermoforming expertise to your next project.

 

Choosing the Right Plastic Thermoforming Company Top 5 Qualifications – Part 2 Engineering, Design, and Material Expertise

In the world of custom plastic thermoforming, the needs of each customer, project, and process are unique. Deadlines, material requirements, cost, and quality are just a few of the variables that development teams face when choosing a plastic thermoforming manufacturer.

Just as each project is unique, each plastic thermoforming company is unique and it is essential to find one that specializes and excels in the areas that are key to your particular project’s success. Choosing the right company for the job is a vital link in your project development chain that can either streamline and strengthen it, or breakdown the process entirely.

With over 30 years in the industry, we at Productive Plastics understand the challenges that you face when shopping for a thermoforming company that will be an asset to your project rather than a liability. So, we have put together a number of qualifications and questions for you to reference then next time you are looking for a company to fill your thermoforming needs. This 5 part series will feature 5 qualifications that we feel are vitally important factors in choosing the right plastic thermoforming manufacturer.

We hope that you find this material informative and helpful in the search for your thermoforming solutions.


Qualification #2: Engineering, design, and material expertise

Qualifiying questions:
  1. Can your company work with me from design concept to completion?
  2. Do you have in-house engineering and design capabilities?
  3. What material is best suited for my application?
  4. Can you manufacture parts that will meet my industry standards? (ex. flammability, conductivity, etc)
Once you have determined that a potential thermoforming company has the industry experience (See Part 1 – Qualification #1)  to meet your project’s needs, it is then important to determine if the company has the engineering, design, and material expertise capabilities to take your concept or existing design to the point of production. Each piece of the design puzzle must be engineered correctly to produce a high quality, tight tolerance, and cost effective part.
The mark of a very capable engineering and design oriented thermoforming company is the ability to take a project from basic concept (the napkin drawing) through completion (part prototype). This encompasses the creation of CAD drawings, tooling design and construction, material selection, and secondary assembly requirements.
Companies that can accomplish this typically have in-house engineering and design staff, but many plastic thermoforming companies do outsourcetheir engineering and design services to third parties. While this is not necessarily a deal breaker, it can have an impact on your project. Companies that outsource rather than in-house these services can experience delays in lead times due to lack of logistical control and carry an increased cost structure which can equate to a longer time to market and higher cost per part for your project. Careful consideration should be used when selecting a company without in-house engineering and design capabilities.
Another important consideration in choosing the right plastic thermoforming company is the correct selection of raw plastic material that will be used in your part’s production. There are a multitude of different types of plastic materials, each with their own specificcharacteristics, properties, strengths, and weaknesses. Proper selection of the appropriate plastic material for a specific application is an essential component in creating a successful plastic part. 
Design tolerances, environmental durability, flammability, conductivity, and many other specifications that may be required or mandated to fit the needs of your project and industry are all affected by the selection of the correct raw material.  Therefore, it is extremely important to determine that your thermoforming company is well versed in material selection and that they have established strong relationships with their raw material suppliers.
In our next issue, we will explore the third qualification, the importance of tooling.

Productive Plastics Qualifications:

  • Productive Plastics has a dedicated and in-house design and engineering staff with decades of industry experience, including reverse engineering, tooling design, and secondary assembly capabilities (learn more)
  • Productive Plastics has the material selection expertise to meet even the most restrictive standards of the transportation, industrial, and medical diagnostic industries. (learn more)

Contact us and let Productive Plastics apply some innovation and thermoforming expertise to your next project.

Choosing the Right Plastic Thermoforming Company – Top 5 Qualifications – Part 1 – Industry Qualifications

In the world of custom plastic thermoforming, the needs of each customer, project, and process are unique. Deadlines, material requirements, cost, and quality are just a few of the variables that development teams face when choosing a plastic thermoforming manufacturer.

Just as each project is unique, each plastic thermoforming company is unique and it is essential to find one that specializes and excels in the areas that are key to your particular project’s success. Choosing the right company for the job is a vital link in your project development chain that can either streamline and strengthen it, or breakdown the process entirely.

With over 30 years in the industry, we at Productive Plastics understand the challenges that you face when shopping for a thermoforming company that will be an asset to your project rather than a liability. So, we have put together a number of qualifications and questions for you to reference then next time you are looking for a company to fill your thermoforming needs. This 5 part series will feature 5 qualifications that we feel are vitally important factors in choosing the right plastic thermoforming manufacturer.

We hope that you find this material informative and helpful in the search for your thermoforming solutions.


Qualification #1: Industry Experience

Qualifiying questions:
  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. Do you have experience in my industry?
  3. Do you have case studies or examples of products that are similar to mine?
  4. Have you been published or recognized in the industry?
When searching for the right plastic thermoforming company, it is important to zero in on a company that has experience in plastic thermoforming. An obvious point we know, however it is important in respect to the fact that you should be looking for a company that has been thermoforming plastic for at least a decade. This uncovers a few key traits about the company.
  1. They are, most likely, a stable company that will be in business for the duration of your project and hopefully long after. Think of the monumental waste of time, effort, and resources expended if the company you select closes its doors half way through the production of your product.
  2. You can reasonably assume that if the company has been thermoforming plastic for over 10 years, they have developed a high level of expertise. A company’s “about us” page on their website, in addition to external references (if you can obtain them), is usually a good starting point for gathering this information.
In addition to establishing a prospective company’s reliability and longevity, the next step is to determine if the company has experience thermoforming parts for products in or related to your specific industry.  There are pitfalls and challenges to manufacturing plastic parts for different industry applications, such as required tolerances, and environmental factors that effect and dictate the thermoforming company’s manufacturing process that must be used, tooling considerations, material selection, and many other production critical factors.  An industry experienced thermoformer will be aware of, prepared for, and capable of handling these project nuances, which will ultimately minimize costly and time consuming mistakes.
 
Once you have qualified a potential thermoforming company as an experienced industry manufacturer, it is helpful to obtain some supporting evidence. Most reputable companies can provide case studies or part examples that showcase their ability to produce high quality parts relevant to your application. Also, look for companies that have been recognized by the industry, whether it be through publications, awards, or other industry resources.
 
In our next issue, we will explore the second qualification, the value of engineering, design, and material expertise.

Productive Plastics Qualifications:

  • Productive Plastics has been in business since 1955 (learn more)
  • Productive Plastics has extensive experience thermoforming parts for these industries: Medical diagnostic, industrial, transportation, plastic enclosures, self-service kiosks (learn more)
  • Productive Plastics was recently awarded the parts competition Judges Choice and People’s Choice awards at this year’s SPE thermoforming conference and has been featured in Plastics News (industry publication)

Contact us and let Productive Plastics apply some innovation and thermoforming expertise to your next project.

Adding more value to value added – Introducing Productive Industrial Finishing

At Productive Plastics, our goal is to provide our customers not only with the highest levels of quality, value, and manufacturing expertise, but to create a synergistic company environment capable of providing and controlling all facets of our value added services for you, our customer.

As a result of this effort, we are proud to welcome our newest addition to the Productive Plastics family, Productive Industrial Finishing.


Productive Industrial Finishing (PIF), previously XYZ Finishing, is a highly experienced industrial powder coating and spray painting operation that joined our team earlier this year. Having recently completed a major facility enhancement project and lean manufacturing process implementation, PIF is now an integral part of our value added and turnkey solutions at Productive Plastics.

Productive Industrial Finishing company facts:

Our unique strengths are providing over 25 years of:

High quality powder and spray finishes

Extremely fast turnaround times

Competitive pricing

Processes

Industrial Powder Coating

Industrial Spray Painting

All processes utilize lean manufacturing techniques and turnaround times average less than 72 hours

Material Advantages

Environmentally friendly (PIF utilizes high solids and water-based products in our product finishing applications)

Extremely durable to the elements

Resistant to most chemicals and solvents

Impact and corrosion resistant

Equipment / Capabilities

2 SureCoat (Morton) powder coating systems

1 Liquid HVLP spray painting booths

18 x 20 x 18 calibrated batch production oven

Polyester, epoxy, urethane, polyurethane, nylon, hybrids

Applications on parts up to 14 linear feet

Certifications

Productive Industrial Finishing has application certifications from the following material manufactures:

Valspar

Sherwin-Williams

Tiger Drylac

TCI Powder Coating

Prizm

PIF can also meet the requirements for most military specifications


Integrating Productive Industrial Finishing into the Productive Plastics family has allowed PPI to control the cost, delivery, and quality of all thermoformed enclosures requiring secondary painting and finishing.

Our customers have already begun to enjoy the benefits of combining PIF’s finishing expertise with PPI’s lean manufacturing techniques and experience. The results have been reduced lead times, increased quality control, and additional value to our customers with products requiring secondary painting and finishing.

Please contact us for additional information on Productive Industrial Finishing or any of our other value-added services.

If you prefer, you can contact Productive Industrial Finishing directly using the following contact information:

Productive Industrial Finishing

103 American Way · Voorhees NJ 08043-1112

Phone: 856-427-9646 · Fax: 856-427-6937

Email: patg@pifpaints.com

Feedback and your ideas are always appreciated.

Plastic Materials – What Material is Right for my Application?

An important consideration when manufacturing a thermoformed plastic part is the selection of appropriate material. There is a multitude of different types of plastic materials, each with their own specific characteristics, properties, strengths, and weaknesses. Proper selection of the appropriate plastic material for a specific application is an essential component in creating a successful plastic part.


Below you will find some basic information on the different types of plastic available for use in thethermoforming process and some considerations that will help you determine the right plastic for the job.

Material Characteristics:

Here are some general physical characteristics that are used to describe the unique properties of each plastic material grade. The material you select will depend on the characteristics you and your project require.

  • Impact Strength – how much abuse can a material take before it breaks
  • Thermal Conductivity – the amount of heat that can be conducted through the material
  • Coefficient of Thermal Expansion – amount of expansion and contraction at a given temperature
  • Chemical Resistance – affect of chemical interaction
  • Stiffness (Flexural Modulus) – Rigidity of material
  • Heat Deflection – the temperature at which the material will distort
  • Hardness – material resistance to abrasion, chipping, and cracking
  • Flammability – extent to which a material will support combustion
  • Mold Shrinkage – amount of shrink after the plastic is removed from the mold
  • Forming Range – temperature range at which the plastic can be thermoformed
  • Tensile strength – Resistance to being pulled apart
  • Dielectric Strength – Electrical insulation

Material Selection Considerations:

When determining the right plastic for the job, consider some of the following questions:

What characteristics are most critical to my application?


  Learn more – click here

Find additional material considerations and other information on selecting the right plastic part for your application, please visit the Plastic Material  page on our website.

Note – The information provided on this page is only basic and generalized. It is only intended to give you a brief overview of some of the plastic material options available and assist in identifying the appropriate material for your project. The content should be used as reference only.

Please contact us for assistance in moving your project forward.

Feedback and your ideas are always appreciated.

Thermoformed Enclosures meets Distortion Printing

One of the many distinct advantages of using thermoformed plastic as an enclosure medium is the vast design flexibility that it gives you on your three dimensional enclosure component. The drawback was that importing branding, images, and complex finishes over these elaborate enclosures was limited or challenging  due to the inherent stretching in the process of thermoformed components.

However, with the utilization of distortion printing, these obstacles have been removed, presenting nearly limitless options for finishing and image applications on thermoformed parts.


What is distortion printing?

Distortion printing is the process of printing a distorted version of an image onto a sheet of plastic  and systematically vacuum forming the sheet on a mold so that specific areas of the printed image appear in corresponding areas of the resulting three-dimensional large part.

Essentially, the finished image is modified to anticipate the distortion created by the stretching of plastic during the thermoforming process. This modified image is then printed on the material which is later thermoformed, resulting in the finished image perfectly proportioned on the three dimensional part.

Why use distortion printing?

  • Improved branding and consumer awareness
  • Kiosk fascia project utilizing distortion printing
  • Design innovation
  • Increased speed-to-market product development
  • Automated and accurate distortion process eliminates cost and risks related to previous trial-and-error processes
  • Large part distortion printing is cutting-edge for the thermoforming industry
  • Elimination of material and assembly costs for secondary parts used for decoration purposes
  • Pre-decorating capabilities of distortion printing vastly increases design envelope for design engineers

Productive Plastics combines its thermoforming and manufacturing process expertise with advanced computer software from Raytek and distortion technology applications from Distortion Arts to bring you the industry’s top distortion printed thermoformed parts.

Contact us with questions on distortion printing and for assistance with your next project.

10 Qualities of Strong Program Management

Welcome to Productive Ideas from Productive Plastics, our opportunity to share business thoughts and ideas.

Today’s “Ideas” are about the qualities of strong program management, an essential part of good business practice.


Here are the ten qualities we have found to be essential in effective program management:

  1. Inspired Vision – Instill in team members a belief that they have a real stake in managing customer needs and meeting their expectations.
  2. Good Communication – Always critical to program success, communication about goals, responsibility, performance and expectations must bridge all levels of your organization.
  3. Integrity – Successful program management require commitment to and demonstration of ethical practices. Each team member must “walk the talk”.
  4. Enthusiasm – Team members exhibit a can do attitude, rather than reasons why something cannot get done.
  5. Empathy – Understand and acknowledge the unique needs of the OEM marketplace and customers need to succeed.
  6. Competence – A winning track record is a sure indication of your ability to provide successful program management to future customers.
  7. Clear Delegation – Each team member should have a clear, defined mission and lines of authority in order to get the job done.
  8. Cool Under Pressure – Our world is not perfect…programs have problems.  It is important to take these problems in stride and articulate a new and improved direction to re-chart the course in stride.
  9. Team Building – Team leaders need to understand the process, dynamics and styles of their members and capitalize on their strengths.
  10. Problem Solving Skills – Bring a fresh, creative response to the here and now opportunities to the program.

Enlisting these program management qualities will help meet and exceed the expectations of customers from product design and tooling development through ongoing production requirements. Did we miss any top ideas?

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.

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