Thermoforming is a plastic forming process used to create a broad variety of consumer goods by melting a plastic sheet over a mold and allowing it to cool. With the appropriate machinery, thermoforming can produce thousands of plastic parts per hour, making it an ideal forming method for high-volume production of plastic parts. The thin plastic sheet used to produce thin-gauge plastic parts is known as thermoforming film. 

What is Thermoforming Film?

Thermoforming is a method of forming plastic sheets. These sheets are available in a variety of thicknesses, depending on the product type. Thinner sheets of plastic are referred to as films. Thermoforming films are essential for the creation of many common consumer goods. 

The Thermoforming Process

In the thermoforming process, a rolled plastic sheet is fed into an oven to heat the plastic to a moldable temperature. Once heated, the plastic sheet is placed over a mold. Depending on the specific equipment used, several methods may be used to apply pressure to the heated sheet to the finer details of the mold:

  • Vacuum. Creating a vacuum between the heated sheet and the mold cavity pulls the pliable sheet into the mold, forcing it to form to the mold’s various details. 
  • Pressurized. This method adds additional force to the vacuum technique by applying additional pressure against the sheet to push it into the mold. This additional pressure is created using compressed air.
  • Mechanical. Mechanical thermoforming uses a mated box to push the plastic sheet down into the mold. 

Vacuum thermoforming is the most common method for films, as thinner material doesn’t require excess pressure to form tightly to the mold. Once the plastic sheet is heated and formed to the mold, it is allowed to cool and undergo cutting and other secondary processes to form the final product.

The Benefits of Thermoforming

There are some advantages traditionally associated with thermoforming:

  • Low cost. Plastic sheets are an affordable raw material and the high-volumes facilitated by the thermoforming process generate additional economies of scale on large production runs.
  • Versatility. Thermoforming is a flexible process than can be used to make a variety of plastic goods of varying complexity.
  • Fast turnaround. As a high-volume plastic molding process, thermoforming offers fast lead times for large volumes of plastic products.
  • Low waste. Excess material can be collected, reground, and formed into plastic sheets for additional thermoforming activities. 

Applications of Thermoforming Film

Thermoforming film is used to create a variety of everyday products, such as:

  • Consumer goods. Thermoforming film is often a preferred method for manufacturing disposable plastic cups, plates, and other consumer goods.
  • Packaging. Thin-gauge thermoforming is used to create plastic packaging for products across retail, medical, food and beverage, and other industries.
  • Medical. Thermoforming films can be used to produce face shields or other medical equipment.
  • Displays. The screens on many smart devices are formed using thermoforming film.
  • Marketing. Thermoforming offers an ideal solution for creating panels or thin plastic parts used in POP and POS displays and other marketing initiatives.

Thermoforming Film from Integrated Packaging Films

Integrated Packaging Films is a custom manufacturer of specialty rigid plastic packaging thermoforming-grade film in sheet and roll form. Our team of industry experts works diligently to ensure that customers receive the service, products, and short lead times they need to succeed. 

Reach out to us today to learn more about our film products or ask us about your upcoming project.