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What Is Vacuum Forming?

Vacuum forming is a manufacturing method used to shape plastic materials. During the LED Advertising Light Vacuum Forming process, a sheet of plastic is heated and then pulled around a single mold using suction.

Vacuum forming is used for a wide range of manufacturing applications, ranging from small custom parts produced on desktop devices to large parts manufactured on automated industrial machinery.

Plastic Trays Vacuum Forming is the simplest type of plastic thermoforming, that uses one mold and vacuum pressure to obtain the desired part geometry. It is ideal for parts that only need to be precisely formed on one side, such as contoured packaging for food or electronics.

How Does Vacuum Forming Work?

The step-by-step Automotive Plastic Parts Vacuum Forming process works as follows:

  • Clamp: A sheet of plastic is placed in an open frame and clamped into place.

  • Heat: The plastic sheet is softened using a heat source until it reaches the appropriate forming temperature and becomes pliable.

  • Vacuum: The framework containing the heated, pliable sheet of plastic is lowered over a mold and pulled into place via a vacuum on the other side of the mold. Female (or convex) molds need to have tiny holes drilled into crevices so that the vacuum can effectively pull the thermoplastic sheet into the appropriate form.

  • Cool: Once the plastic has been formed around/into the mold, it needs to cool. For larger pieces, fans and/or cool mist are sometimes used to speed up this step in the production cycle.

  • Release: After the plastic has cooled, it can be removed from the mold and released from the framework.

  • Trim: The completed part will need to be cut out of the excess material, and edges may need to be trimmed, sanded, or smoothed.

Affordability

Particularly for smaller production runs (250-300 units per year), Thermoforming Products are typically more affordable than other manufacturing methods, such as plastic injection molding. The affordability of vacuum forming is largely due to the lower cost for tooling and prototyping. Depending on the surface area of the parts being manufactured and the dimensions of the clamp frame, tooling for injection molding can cost two to three times more than the amount for tooling for plastic thermoforming or vacuum forming.

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