The vacuum forming process

Thermoplastic vacuum forming is a technique for transforming flat plastic into a three dimensional shape using a mould tool.

Sheet plastic is heated to make the plastic malleable, then it is stretched over the mould tool and a vacuum is created as air is removed from the machine. The atmospheric pressure around the tool forces the plastic to cast itself upon the tool, producing the plastic silhouette.

Excess plastic is removed by the CNC (Computer Numerically Control) machines and then the product is ready to travel through to its next stage of production, whether that is fabrication and assembly, or to be sent to the client as a finished plastic product.

The benefits of thermoplastic vacuum forming

There are several advantages of thermoplastic vacuum forming, which include:

  • Reduced tooling charges – the reduced complexity and lower loads make this a cheaper option than injection moulding
  • Significantly reduced machine time and material costs – a production run can be set up with several moulds on the same machine bed, to form multiple impressions
  • Wider material choice – depending on the time, budget and finish required, production tools or moulds can be made from epoxy or polyester resin, cast aluminium, milled aluminium or wood – see our full list of materials and finishes here
  • Ideal for small to medium volume production runs – the automated process makes it easy to produce between about 100 and 100,000 units
  • Suitable for a wide range of products and components – the versatile nature of vacuum forming means it works well for a wide range of industries, from bespoke industrial design companies to those requiring more standardised components, such as in the gardening industry

How vacuum forming works

Thermoplastic vacuum forming

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