Advanced Thermoforming Solutions

4 Reasons: Why Design-2-Part Santa Clara Is One of Our Favorite Shows of the Year


Design 2 Part Santa Clara, with a picture of Santa Clara, California.

Design-2-Part shows are a great chance for product engineers, designers and manufacturers to meet with suppliers, like us, who can help them create the things they’re trying to bring to market. We exhibit at several throughout the year, but Design-2-Part Santa Clara, taking place this year on May 24 and 25 in the Santa Clara Convention Center, is one of our favorites.

Here’s why:

  1. The 49ers: Ray Products president and CEO, Brian Ray, is an unrepentant, life-long 49ers fan. And the 49ers new stadium is, of course, in Santa Clara. For Brian, this isn’t so much a visit to a trade show as it is a pilgrimage.
  2. Made in California: Every piece of plastic we’ve ever manufactured has been proudly Made in California. D2P Santa Clara gives us a chance to meet and work with other companies who understand the value of doing business locally.
  3. Thermoforming’s So Hot Right Here: We’re not sure if it has something to do with the area’s link with innovation, or something else, but we’ve always found that engineers and designers around Silicon Valley are very receptive to pressure forming and vacuum forming as a process.
  4. Innovation CentralSanta Clara is, of course, in the heart of Silicon Valley, a place with 3x the national average concentration of high-technology STEM workers. It accounts for just 1% of California’s land mass, but it accounts for nearly 40% of the state’s angel investments. And of course, it’s home to some of the world’s leading innovators in manufacturing and materials: companies like Apple, Cisco, Tesla, Google, Intuitive Surgical and more. We might not know what the next world-changing technological innovation will be, but there’s a good chance that it’ll be invented or developed in Silicon Valley. It could even get its start at next week’s D2P.

Interested in coming to D2P Santa Clara? You can be our guest. We’ll be in Booth #253 from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Wednesday and Thursday, May 24th and 25th. Hope to see you there.

Designing for Thermoforming: From the Design Guide — Chapter 2

Design | Thermoforming

This is the second post in our series from our Thermoforming Handbook, a guide that, until now, was only available to our customers and partners. We’re releasing the whole thing in a series of posts right here on our blog. Chapter 1’s blog post is right here.

If you’re someone who uses custom plastic manufacturing professionally and you’re interested in getting your own copy, just send us a message and we’ll be happy to send you one. As always, these are general guidelines. Any project or design needs to be reviewed by a qualified thermoforming professional before it goes into production, and the sooner you get one of those qualified professionals involved in the process, the smoother things tend to go.  If you’re looking for a qualified professional, we know a few who would be happy to help.

Welcome to Chapter 2 of our design guide, where we’ll learn some important design considerations when designing for thermoforming. We’ll cover draw ratios, sharp angles, undercuts, draft angles and more. Thermoforming is a very capable process, and the more you understand about its technical aspects, the more flexibility you’ll have in design.

Draw Ratios

A draw ratio is the calculation that lets you know what gauge of plastic you need to start with for any given thermoformed part.

The Importance of Stretching

Thermoforming works by stretching a sheet of plastic over a mold. The more stretching that occurs, the thinner the plastic gets.

You Want It Thick, but Not Too Thick

Using a draw ratio calculation, you can make sure you start with plastic that’s thick enough to give you the final thickness you need, but not so thick that you waste money on overly expensive materials.


Thermoforming with a One to One Draw Ratio


Finding Thermoforming’s Sweet Spot in MFR Tech

Plastics Manufacturing

Finding Thermoforming's Sweet Spot

MFR Tech has just published an article on finding thermoforming’s sweet spot, by our very own Jason Middleton.  The sweetened, condensed version is that if your plastic manufacturing project falls into the right mix of quantity, size and a couple other factors, it’s essentially impossible to find a better process than thermoforming.

You should really head over there and read the whole thing.

An Overview of Thermoforming: From the Design Guide


This is the first post in a series that comes straight from our Thermoforming Handbook, a guide that, until now, was only available to our customers and partners.  We’ll be releasing the whole thing in a series of posts, right here on our blog.

If you’re someone who uses custom plastic manufacturing professionally, and you’re interested in getting your own copy, just send us a message and we’ll be happy to send you one.


The Process of Thermoforming

Both pressure forming and vacuum forming are processes that are easiest to understand when they’re explained visually.


Step 1

First, a sheet of thermoplastic is heated until it becomes pliable and moldable.

Thermoforming - A Sheet of Plastic is Heated


Step 2: Vacuum Forming

In the vacuum forming process, the plastic is stretched over a single male mold, and air is vacuumed out from underneath the mold.
Vacuum forming illustration.


Step 2: Pressure Forming

In pressure forming, the heated plastic is placed between male and female molds, which are then pressed against the plastic sheet using compressed air at a pressure that ranges from 20 to 100 psi.
Pressure Forming Illustration


Step 3

Finally, the now molded plastic part is removed from the mold and allowed to cool. It’s then moved to a trimming station where the excess plastic is removed with a six-axis fully robotic trimming machine.

Thermoforming final step.



Key Advantages of Thermoforming

Cost at Quantity

If your part requirements range from the low hundreds to the high thousands, thermoforming is almost always the chosen process.

Large Part Capability

Our thermoforming equipment, the largest on the West Coast, can create single pieces up to a full 10 feet x 18 feet, with up to 40 inches of depth.

Huge Thermoplastic Material Selection

Any color, including metallics, fire-rated, impact resistant, UV resistant, antibacterial properties, ROHS/REACH compliant, recyclable and so much more.

Complex Geometry Without High Costs

Make complex shapes without high tooling costs.

Part-to-Part Repeatability

Consistency and precision from part number 1 to part number 5,555; with no warpage, improved flatness and zero residual stress.

Molded-In-Features for Easy Assembly

Make assembly cheaper and faster with undercuts, molded-in attachment points, tabs, slots and more.

Beautiful & Flexible Finishing Options

Mold in color and texture, paint, silk screen, EMI/RFI shielding and more. The choice is yours.

Lower Cost Design Changes

Make changes quickly without spending thousands on new or reworked tooling.

Pick a Texture, Any Texture

From high-gloss to matte to custom, you’ve got options for textures.



Comparing Vacuum Forming & Pressure Forming

 Vacuum FormingPressure Forming
DescriptionA sheet of plastic material is heated to pliability, then pressed against a 3D mold by vacuuming out the air between the sheet and the mold.A sheet of plastic material is heated to pliability, then pressed against a 3D female cavity mold by vacuuming out the air between the sheet and the mold, and applying compressed air from 20 to 100 psi above the plastic sheet.
Common Applications
  • Outdoor UV-resistant projects

  • High-gloss surfaces

  • High-impact applications

  • Recycled materials applications
  • Complex shapes

  • Parts with vents or louvers

  • Projects with tighter tolerances

  • Molded-in attachment points
Often Used to Create
  • Point-of-purchase displays

  • Automotive aftermarket, interior/exterior

  • Recreational vehicles

  • Pool and spa components

  • Dunnage material handling trays and pallets

  • Fitness equipment

  • Reusable medical trays or bins
  • Medical device enclosures

  • Office equipment

  • Vented equipment enclosures

  • Scientific instruments

  • Detailed components

  • Control panels

  • Multi-part assemblies

  • Kiosk/POS enclosures

  • Mass transit components

  • Equipment enclosures, bezels, housings and
DimensionsMale tool, vacuum formed parts to be dimensioned to the inside surfaces of the part.Female tool, pressure formed parts to be dimensioned to the outside surfaces of the part.

How Great Was MD&M West 2017? So Great.

Plastics Manufacturing

MD&M West is one of our biggest trade shows of the year. In case you’re not familiar, it’s the left half of the country’s largest medtech manufacturing show. It’s where medical device manufacturers come together with specialty suppliers, like Ray Products, to learn, network and advance the future of medical device manufacturing.

For us, it’s a chance to meet up with quite a few of our current customers, and explore new partnership opportunities. A lot of that comes from the fact that thermoforming and medical device manufacturing go together like bread and butter. No, like bread and Nutella. No, like Nutella and French toast. You get the picture.

This year, we gave out IdeaFuel kits to some of the customers and friends that stopped by our booth. Besides some tradeshow survival essentials, the kits came with reusable modeling clay in beautiful Ray Products blue.

I’m not sure if anyone has used the clay to develop the next great lifesaving medical device (yet), but when it comes to creativity, our booth visitors didn’t disappoint.

If you had a chance to stop by our booth at MD&M West, thank you! You’re the reason we invest in shows like this.

If you missed us, we’d love to connect another way. Just drop us a note or send us a quote request if you’ve got a project you think might be a good fit for thermoforming.

We Gave Away a 3D Printer!


A 3d Printer

Every year, we enter everyone who takes our plastics manufacturing survey into a drawing. This year, the prize was a desktop 3D printer.

Mike DeFazio isn’t just a winner in general; he’s the winner of a brand-new desktop 3D printer in this year’s drawing!

Mike is the principal industrial designer at SnapPea Design in Waterloo, Ontario. He’s worked on projects for Bose, Kobo, HTC, BlackBerry and others.

When we got in touch with Mike, here’s what he had to say:

“At SnapPea Design we believe that good design is iterative. 3D printing has become a vital tool to enable our designers to quickly validate ideas so we are grateful to Ray Products for hooking us up and allowing us to arrive at solutions quicker! “

Congratulations Mike! We’d love to see what you make with that thing.

Also, a big thanks to the friendly Canadians at DigitMakers, who made it easy for us to get Mike his printer north of the border.

Are you wishing that you had a chance to win great stuff like Mike? We hear you! If you use plastics manufacturing as part of your job, sign up below and we’ll put you on the list for the 2017 survey.

2016 Plastics Manufacturing Survey Results: Plastics Manufacturing Will Grow a Bit, Thermoforming Grows a Lot and We Find Out if Designers Hate America.


A person using a tablet.

The results are in. After distributing our survey to over 25,000 professionals, collecting and tabulating the results and performing our analysis, we’re ready to share the results of our 3rd annual Plastics Manufacturing Industry Survey.

Our survey took place during Q4 of 2016 and asked our respondents for their experiences and expectations with plastics manufacturing.

The Executive Summary

Don’t have time to read the whole thing? Here’s the tastiest bits:

  • Plastics manufacturing is expected to grow about 5%
  • Thermoforming grew about 11%
  • Designers might hate America (not really, but don’t you want the full story?)
  • Concern for recyclability is up 8%
  • Everyone still really cares about quality


Thermoforming, Ancient Egyptians and 3D Printing

Large Part Thermoforming | Thermoforming

Egyptian Mummy sarcophagus

Medical Design & Outsourcing is running an article by our CEO Brian Ray that brings together ancient Egyptian spoons, thermoforming and 3D printing.

No, seriously.

Turns out that ancient Egyptians were some of the first thermoformers. Today, the modern version of a 5,000-year-old technique is helping to power everything from electric vehicles to cutting-edge medical devices. All at a cost that makes it easy to make the jump from prototyping to production.

Hopefully when The Mummy reboots in 2017, it’ll feature Tom Cruise discovering some thermoformed ancient Egyptian artifacts, shortly before he’s attacked by the undead. Fingers crossed.

An Interview with the CEO


Gayle Putrich from Plastics News sat down with our CEO, Brian Ray, and asked him about what it’s like to run Ray Products.

The interview touches on quite a bit of what makes us unique—from our desire to be a true partner for our customers to the legacy of a 67+-year history in this industry.

You should read the whole thing, but Brian’s quote at the end of the article sums it up pretty well:

“If I can look back at my time leading the company on the day I retire and honestly feel like I’ve even come close to living up to the standard set by my father and grandfather, I’ll feel like a success. That’s the goal that drives me every day.”

Helping Goodwill Save Money and Improve their Donation Bins


Thermoformed Goodwill GoBin Donation Bin

Plastics News wrote an article on our GoBin project for Goodwill Industries. If you’re not familiar with the GoBin, it’s a donation collection container that Goodwill is placing in the lobbies of apartment buildings and office complexes. The bins help make donating to Goodwill easier than ever.

The article touches on one of the key ways we were able to help the charitable organization. When Goodwill came to us with the original designs, the sides of the container were split into a 3-part assembly to accommodate another thermoformer with more standard sized equipment.

Thanks to our large, 10’ × 18’ thermoforming capabilities, we were able to accommodate the same design with a 2-part assembly. Eliminating the third part helped to cut per-unit costs, improve the rigidity of the final product and make it easier and quicker to assemble the GoBins when they’re delivered on-site.

But, don’t’ take our word for it. Head over to Plastics News and read the article.

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