Universal Plastics specializes in heavy gauge thermoforming, a process that converts a flat sheet of plastic into a functional form. Since it is a low pressure process, our tools are simpler and less expensive than other molding processes. Heavy gauge thermoforming, sometimes referred to as thick gauge thermoforming, is used to create sturdy rigid enclosures for equipment such as computers, medical devices, radomes, electronic enclosures, outdoor equipment, exercise equipment and various other applications. Materials used in the heavy gauge thermoforming include ACRYLIC, ABS, Kydex, HDPE, LDPE, PP, PVC, PETG, and polycarbonates. A wide variety of material options exist to meet cosmetic needs (color, texture, gloss or finish) or functional requirements (rigidity, flame retardant, impact strength, chemical resistance). Universal Plastics will share our expertise in thermoplastics to help you to find the right material for your part. Our heavy gauge thermoforming expertise, allows us to produce high quality, aesthetically pleasing plastic parts manufactured to your exact specifications and needs. To discuss how Universal Plastics can meet your heavy gauge thermoforming needs, please contact us.
Types of Heavy Gauge Thermoforming:
Heavy gauge thermoforming uses sheet up to ½” thick, which is formed with one of these processes:
- Vacuum forming is a simple process, where a hot sheet is formed over a mold, and vacuum is applied between the sheet and the mold, pulling the sheet tight to the mold. Once it cools, the sheet takes on the shape of the tool. With our 5-axis CNC trimming equipment, we then trim out the finished part with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. There are an infinite number of applications of this process. Universal Plastics has 14 vacuum formers across our 3 thermoforming factories.
- Pressure forming is a more complex process where the hot sheet is drawn into a female mold, and then a tank closes off the mold and pressure is introduced on the non-mold side while vacuum is applied on the mold side. The sheet is drawn very tightly to the mold, and the resultant part then has all of the fine detail of a molded part, but with less tooling. This is the process of choice where you need a very highly cosmetic look, identical to molding, with tight radii and fine surface detail but the part size is large and volumes are just too low to justify injection molding. Many industrial machines and medical and scientific equipment employ pressure formed enclosures to give them a distinctive and attractive appearance. Universal Plastics has 22 pressure forming machines across our 3 thermoforming factories.
- Twin sheet forming is a process where two sheets of material are heated and formed simultaneously into their respective molds and then quickly pressed together. While they are being pressed together, a pin is pushed through one of the sheets and air is blown in causing the sheets to be pressure formed. The heat and pressure cause the 2 sheets to fuse or seal and become a single unit where they are touching and allow the parts to be trimmed completely flush all around. This creates an extremely strong, rigid part. Products manufactured with the twin sheet thermoforming process may look similar to blow molding or rotational molding but are often less costly to form and are highly cosmetic.
- Fabrication is the simplest process of all, where the sheet itself is simply bent and or bonded into a new shape, very similar to sheet metal but with the many benefits plastics bring to product design. There is minimal tooling cost with this process and the variety of shapes that can be created are only limited by the designer’s imagination. Common uses include machine guards, tanks, retail displays, and back end enclosures that match up aesthetically to pressure formed bezels.
Heavy gauge thermoforming is a custom plastic manufacturing process which allows you to create large plastic parts with great cosmetics at much lower tooling cost and much lower minimum quantity runs than other plastic processes. Economical low-volume or to moderate-volume runs are possible with heavy gauge thermoforming as opposed to much more expensive upfront tooling cost of injection molding. The ideal volume for heavy gauge thermoforming is quantities of 10 up to 500 per year. All of this is achieved, while controlling the aesthetics and incorporating the colors and branding of our customers. Call us to discuss your need for heavy gauge thermoforming. Universal Plastics also offers injection molding, so we can work with you to understand the best manufacturing process for you based on your part volume, design and other needs. We pride ourselves on our ability to offer unbiased, process-agnostic advice and multiple production processes for high mix / low volumes, low mix / high volumes and the breadth in between.
Universal Plastics’ expertise in the application of heavy gauge thermoforming ranges across various industries and product types. Below is a selection of common products:
- Dunnage trays
- Totes & Bins
For assistance with your design, just let us know. Our world-class engineering team will be happy to work with you to design a thermoformed part for your specific application. To discuss how Universal Plastics can meet your custom thermoforming needs, please contact us.
Heavy Gauge Thermoforming Capabilities at Universal Plastics:
Universal Plastics is the largest precision heavy gauge custom thermoformer in the Northeastern US with an asset base of 22 pressure formers, 14 vacuum formers and 26 5-axis trimming machines, supplying our customers with vacuum forming, pressure forming, including twin sheet forming and complex assemblies, with part sizes up to 12’ x 9’. In addition, we offer in-house tooling, an experienced engineering staff, and a full complement of secondary/finishing services, including our new state of the art paint booths which can produce automotive quality finishes. With a range of rotary formers, rapid manufacturing processes, and a global supply chain, we can produce thermoformed parts at the most competitive prices.
In addition to custom thermoforming, Universal Plastics also offers injection molding (including gas assist and structural foam molding) and custom blow molding. We would be glad to talk with you about the optimal process for your needs.
Contact us to discuss how we can meet your heavy gauge thermoforming needs.