Learn about popular thermoforming applications and industries
Thermoforming is a popular manufacturing process used to create a variety of products. It involves heating a thermoplastic material until pliable, then forming it into the desired shape. Common applications include packaging, prototyping, food and beverage containers, and small batch production.
In this guide, we explore some of the most popular thermoforming applications, divided into three categories.
Thermoforming during product development
As consumers, we usually only see thermoforming in end-use parts you use on a daily basis. However, thermoforming is usually used during the whole product development process.
There are three main stages when thermoforming can be used:
- Rapid prototyping: This process is used to evaluate the functionality and design of an idea before investing in expensive production methods. You can quickly create multiple iterations to test assembly paths, coatings, or post-processing options.
- Tooling and fixtures: thermoforming can be used to produce tools used in the production of other products. For example, with a thermoformed transparent fixture you can ensure that parts are being produced consistently and accurately.
- End-use parts: thermoformed components are common in many industries, including automotive, medical, packaging, electronics and more.
Find here a list of some of the most popular thermoforming applications and their industries.
Automotive and transport
Thermoforming is widely used in the automotive and transport industries to produce interior and exterior parts. These parts are made from materials such as ABS, which can tolerate high temperatures and pressure.
- Automotive interior components: dashboards, door panels, and armrests
- Automotive exterior components: bumpers, spoilers, and fenders
- Recreational vehicle components: vans, motorhomes, and trailers
- Aircraft components and interiors: windows, seats, armrests, and control panels
- Marine components: hulls, decks, canoes, kayaks, and interior components
- Transport: seating, interior paneling, light housing, and gap covers
Medical devices and equipment
Thermoforming is an ideal manufacturing process for medical devices and equipment. It can provide parts that are sterilizable, durable, lightweight, and precise.
- Medical device housings: hearing aids, ventilators, and defibrillators
- Medical equipment: hospital bed components, bins, containers and sterile packaging
- Orthopedic and prosthetic: customized braces, splints and orthotic devices
Packaging and displays
Thermoforming is commonly used in the packaging and display industries. These parts are typically made from materials like PETG, HIPS and PVC, which offer transparency and excellent impact resistance.
- Food and beverage packaging: clamshells and blister packs, plastic pallets
- Point of purchase displays: product stands
- Signage: signs for both internal and external use
Electrical and electronic devices
Thermoforming is an ideal solution for the production of electrical and electronic components. It provides lightweight, strong, and heat-resistant parts with precision and consistency.
- Computer housings: desktop and laptop computers, switch boxes, control panels, and junction boxes
- Protective cases: for laptops, measuring equipment, and cameras
- Refrigeration components: door panels and liners
Thermoforming is a cost-effective way to produce consumer goods with intricate details and tight tolerances. It is an ideal solution for manufacturers who need to meet high standards.
- Toys: RC cars, building blocks, puzzles and action figures
- Sporting goods: helmets, protective gear and exercise equipment
- Furniture components: arms, backs, and legs
Thermoforming is widely used in many industries, making it a key method for prototyping and manufacturing specific applications.
- Farming equipment: panels, roofs, machinery interior parts, sprayer shells and feed containers
- Acoustic components: soundproofing and insulation
- Lighting: lighting covers and transparent skylights
Thermoforming is a versatile manufacturing process used for a wide variety of applications. It is used for rapid prototyping, tooling, and end-use parts in many industries and for numerous applications. Its advantages include cost savings, quick turnaround times, and low minimum order quantities.
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