During the thermoforming process, plastic sheets have heat applied to them which makes them malleable, so you can form the plastic into different shapes that stay solid when cooled. The shapes are made by putting them around the mould, and to get a smooth finish and professional result, a vacuum is used that sucks the extra air out that sits between the plastic and the mould. The name for this variant of thermoforming is vacuum forming.
During the vacuum forming process, a sheet of plastic is heated to a high temperature and placed onto a single surface mould where it is formed into a shape. The mould is held onto the plastic by a vacuum that keeps it securely in place. The way the shape is formed is because the mould creates a layer that means the plastic cannot get fully drawn to the surface. The range of different products you could make from vacuum forming is endless.
You can use vacuum forming to make product packaging, the casing of speakers and it even extends to bigger products such as car dashboards. The beauty of it is that a variety of different products can be made from a single piece of plastic. It’s a highly specialised technique to be able to vacuum form.
When designing how your product is going to be vacuum formed, it’s important to take into consideration that a space will have to be left for draft angles so that your product can be easily removed from the mould without any damage and with ease. Also, when the product cools, it shrinks, so this must be thought about too.
A disadvantage to vacuum forming is that it can sometimes leave you restricted to shallower objects, so this may not be the ideal process for every thermoformed product. There are lots of different types of thermoforming, such as plastic thermoforming, press moulding, drape moulding and fabrication.