When it comes to getting your product to market in as expeditious a manner as possible, thermoforming is far superior to other plastic manufacturing methods. In general, thermoforming is quicker to implement, more efficient in terms of materials and yields a significantly more affordable end-product. On a more specific level thermoforming provides the following benefits:
Shorter Lead Times
Thermoforming molds are far easier to manufacture than ones for injection molding process as the latter are required to be far more robust to handle the pressures associated with the process. Thus, lead times on producing a cast or machined aluminum molds or even composite ones is significantly shortened even for thick gauge applications.
Similarly, high volume, sheet-fed thermoforming is far more productive on per item basis than the injection, blow or rotational molding processes. These days, thin gauge thermoforming is essentially produced on a continuous basis in high production machines. The plastic is fed in at one end, then heated, formed, cooled and trimmed in one long, computer-controlled process. It is a remarkably efficient and cost-effective production method.
In addition to the lowered planning costs described above, tooling costs are also lower than in other molding processes as the equipment does not take the same amount of strain. In addition, excess material trimmed from finished pieces is completely recyclable in the thermoforming process; something not always true with the plastics used in other types of molding.
Thin gauge thermoforming is most notable for its use in the production of paper cups, blisters, clamshells and other retail packaging items. Thick gauge, thermoform manufactured pieces, however, are sturdy enough to replace metal, wood, fiberglass or plastic injection molded products for use in car doors, refrigerators and even as heavy duty liners in the back of pickup trucks. In short, a thermoformed piece can be designed and manufactured for almost any use where metal, wood or other plastic materials are appropriate.
Secondly, the use of wood patterns can significantly enhance the design and testing phase of any thermoform production run. Wood pattern molds are quite inexpensive to make and allow engineers to fine-tune the design before metal or composite molds are created. This advantage is simply not available to those who chose another molding process.
The Bottom Line – Faster, Better, Smarter
In the final analysis, thermoforming allows you to make more timely decisions while still staying within budget. It also allows a faster product development cycle that will enable you to get your product to market ahead of your competitors. All other things being equal, this is often the single most effective tiebreaker and the difference that finally lands you the contract. In short, it is simply prudent for any business person to consider thermoform manufacturing when they need any of a wide variety of manufactured plastic parts.