Advanced Thermoforming Solutions

A Brief Overview of Thermoforming – Sign up Below for our Free Handbook

Thermoforming

This post is a preview of the in-depth information included in our Thermoforming Handbook, a guide previously only available to our customers and partners.

Fill out the form below to receive your digital copy of the full Thermoforming Handbook, completely free.

 


 

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
    covers
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.

Top Five Things to Do in Santa Clara

Large Part Thermoforming | Plastics Manufacturing | Pressure Forming | Thermoforming

Outside of Levi's Football Stadium

It’s no secret that Design-2-Part Santa Clara is one of our favorite trade shows—mostly because of the fantastic people and cutting-edge technology we encounter year after year. But the fact that it’s in Santa Clara is also a big draw, and over the years, we find ourselves returning to the same great spots while we’re there. If you’re headed to D2P Santa Clara later this month, here are a couple of things we highly recommend doing while you’re in town.

 

  1. Visit Levi’s Stadium. As we mentioned last year, our CEO Brian is a die-hard, unapologetic 49ers fan—and before you say anything, he wants to state for the record that he has a good feeling about the 2018-2019 season. Even if you don’t share Brian’s zeal for the 49ers, the 49ers Museum is worth a visit for any football fan. It’s only open Friday through Sunday, so stop by on your way out of town after the show.

 

  1. Grab a bite. Santa Clara has some excellent dining options. If you want to go all in at Levi’s Stadium, check out Bourbon Steak or Bourbon Pub. Other popular spots include Birk’s Restaurant, a classic bistro-style steakhouse, and The Fish Market.

 

  1. Get some culture. From the beautiful Mission Santa Clare de Asis church at Santa Clara University to California’s Great America theme park, there’s something for everyone in Santa Clara.

 

  1. Experience 3D Printing. For the first year ever, D2P Santa Clara will have a 3D Printing Pavilion dedicated exclusively to 3D printing technology. Don’t miss it!

 

  1. Come Say Hi. We’ll be at Booth #250 from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm, both Wednesday and Thursday. Come meet us and find out what makes our custom-manufactured plastics the best in the business—and how we can help make your business the best it can be.

Register here if you haven’t already. We hope to see you there!

Medical device manufacturing events we’re attending this month

Thermoforming

Ray Products at medical device manufacturing event

At Ray Products, we have been creating 3D thermoformed plastic parts for our clients, including those in the medical device manufacturing industry, for more than 65 years. But with the latest developments in pressure-forming technology and the proven benefits to the medical device manufacturing sector, we’re making the industry a special focus in 2018.

Most recently, our President, Brian Ray, and our Vice President of Sales & Development, Jason Middleton, led a Medical Design and Outsourcing webinar about the benefits of pressure forming medical device enclosures.

Throughout the webinar you’ll learn about the significant cost savings associated with pressure forming as well as the aesthetic and performance improvements of pressure-formed medical devices. The 45-minute webinar covers the entire pressure-forming process-from design and tooling to material selection to trimming and finishing-going over anything an engineer or industrial designer may need to know about pressure forming medical device enclosures.

If you weren’t able to attend, you can find it here: Medical Design and Outsourcing webinar.

To kick off February, we’re heading back to MD&M West, a three-day industry event where the best minds in medtech and manufacturing meet to share insights, discuss industry challenges and discover the latest innovations that are reshaping the industry.

MD&M West takes place February 6-8th in Anaheim, Calif. We’ll be there to answer questions and demonstrate some of the many capabilities and advantages of pressure forming medical devices.

If you’re attending MD&M West, we’d love to see you there. Stop by booth #2231 to chat about any challenges you may be experiencing, and we’ll see how we can help!

MD&M West
February 6-8
Anaheim Convention Center
800 W Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92802

Be our Guest & MD&M West

2017 Plastics Manufacturing Survey Results: U.S. Manufacturing at All-Time High, Growth Predicted, Shifts in Process Popularity

Plastics Manufacturing | Thermoforming

The results of our 4th annual plastics manufacturing industry survey are here. After sending our survey to thousands of plastics manufacturing customers, tabulating the results and analyzing them, we’re ready to peer into the past, present and future of the plastics manufacturing industry.

 

The Executive Summary

Don’t have time to read the full report? Here are some of our most significant findings:

  • A 21% Majority of Respondents Predict Growth in Plastics Manufacturing Over the Next Year.
  • The Percentage of U.S.-Based Plastics Manufacturing (68%) Is Higher Than It’s Ever Been Since We Started Our Survey.
  • Pressure Forming Is More Popular Than Ever, Up 11% From Last Year.
  • In 2017, 100% Recyclability Was Less Important Than It Was in 2014.
  • 92% of Engineers Demand a Prototype Before Going to Production.
  • Quality Is, & Probably Forevermore Will Be, the #1 Attribute Customers Look for in a Plastics Manufacturer.

 

Who We Surveyed & Why

Our goal is to attract responses from a wide, representative group of people who use plastics manufacturing on a regular basis throughout the course of their jobs. To that end, our survey was distributed to manufacturing-related tradeshow attendees, relevant publication readers and a network of industry contacts.

The result is a group that uses plastics manufacturing regularly, representing most facets of the industry and a wide range of positions within that industry.

If you’re part of that group and didn’t have a chance to take the survey, just let us know and we’ll make sure you’re invited to next year’s survey.

READ MORE

Our First Trip to DeviceTalks & Our Return To MD&M West

Pressure Forming

A Thermoformer's Booth at a Trade Show

This week, we made our first appearance as exhibitors at DeviceTalks West in Costa Mesa.

DeviceTalks are a series of three events held annually in Boston, Minnesota and Orange County, CA. They’re hosted by MassDevice.com, which is described as the “journal of record for the medical device industry.” Compared to other medical device conferences, MassDevice is a bit shorter (just two days), and perhaps more focused on presentations from big-name keynote speakers.

The 2017 Orange County program was split between two tracks, one called “Building Better Companies,” targeted at senior executives; and another named “Building Better Products,” targeted at engineering managers and their teams.

We’ve been working with medical device manufacturers throughout the history of our company, but recent advances in pressure-forming technology and our own experience in that industry have made the medical device manufacturing sector a special focus for Ray Products. With that in mind, and the show’s location in our own backyard, showing up this year seemed like a no-brainer.

If you missed us at DeviceTalks, you can see us at MD&M West in Anaheim February 6–8. We’ll be there to answer questions about pressure forming medical devices, demonstrate some of the process’s capabilities and advantages, and help attendees solve any challenges they may be experiencing.

Hope to see you there!

MD&M West
February 6–8
Anaheim Convention Center / Anaheim
800 W Katella Ave Anaheim CA 92802

Register Here

Webinar: 9 Lies You’ve Been Told About Thermoforming, and 4 Truths That Will Transform Your Next Project – November 9

Design | Plastics Manufacturing | Pressure Forming | Thermoforming

A Red Thermoformed Device Enclosure

Chances are, you’ve been lied to about the capabilities of thermoforming. Those lies probably weren’t intentional. They may have come from sources with an outdated or incomplete understanding of pressure forming and vacuum forming as a process.

Wherever those lies came from, it’s time to learn the truth. And there’s no better place than the webinar we’ll be hosting in partnership with Design World on November 9 at 4 p.m. EST / 1 p.m. PST.

We’ll address the most commonly told lies about thermoforming, and share truths that you can use to cut costs, improve aesthetics and performance, and slash your manufacturing timetables with thermoforming.

9 Lies You’ve Been Told About Thermoforming
& 4 Truths That Will Transform Your Next Project

Online Webinar
Speakers: Brian Ray and Jason Middleton, with moderator Leslie Langnau
Host: Design World
Thursday, November 9, 2017
4 p.m. EST / 1 p.m. PST

Register Now

Finishing: From the Design Guide Chapter 7

Thermoforming

Designing for Thermoforming Guide: Chapter 7

This is the seventh 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.

We’ve previously released:

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.


The last part of the thermoforming process is finishing.  This term can encompass anything that happens after the final part is trimmed, including painting, silk-screening, the attachment of fasteners and in some cases even assembly and logistics.

Painting

Sure, you can thermoform in color, but there are a few reasons you still might want to consider painting.

Painting Options

  • Standard paints
  • Custom colored paints
  • Master batching with other suppliers
  • Metallic paints
  • Multi-color parts
  • Small lot customization

Silk Screening

Silk-screened text, images and logos can be used to brand, label and improve the aesthetics of thermoformed parts.

Specialty Finishes

EMI/RF Shielding – Special copper paint, used to block interference from electronic devices.

Hot Stamping – A process where metal foil text or graphics are permanently affixed to the thermoformed plastic.

Plating – Plated plastic is plastic that has been covered in a metal coating for the purposes of EMI/RF shielding, ESD prevention, wear resistance or a thermal or chemical barrier.

Embossing/Debossing – A process where heat is used to make a 3D impression/depression on the plastic, for a detailed feature like a logo  or graphic.

Attached Fasteners

Bosses, inserts and other fasteners are attached with adhesive during the finishing process. They offer significant design flexibility, but can also increase costs.

Pressure forming allows for molded attachment points like tabs, counter- bores or counter sinks.

Tech Tip: 

Fastening is one of the most important issues to address in the design ofplasticparts.Inthermoforming,itisnotpossibletomoldina boss or insert without it being visible on both surfaces of the part. Many types of fasteners and attachment options are available, and we are ready to work with you to meet the fastening requirements of your parts.

Molded-In Features

Molded-in features like snap-fits, tabs and receiving slots are affordable fastening options, and don’t generally add significantly to the total project cost.

Molded In Thermoforming Features

Molded In Counter-Bore Fasteners Thermoforming

Bonded Bosses With Inserts

Bonded bosses with inserts can help to form a secure attachment between two parts, but they do add some costs to building the part.

Bonded Bosses With Inserts

Bonded Bosses With Sheet Metal Attachments

Tech Tip

Unlike injection molding or other processes, our bosses can be added, subtracted or moved without any impact to tooling.

We’re Ready to Help

Have questions about finishing on your next thermoforming project? We’d be happy to help.  Get in touch today.

Trimming: From the Design Guide Chapter 6

Thermoforming

Thermoforming Design Guide Handbook Chapter 6

This is the sixth 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.

We’ve previously released:

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.


Every part that comes out of a thermoforming machine must be trimmed. In 1949 when Ray Products was founded, this process was carried out with hand tools. Today, we use high-precision 6-axis trimming robots to carry out the process quickly, and cost-effectively.

READ MORE

Thermoforming Tolerances: From the Design Guide Chapter 5

Thermoforming

Thermoforming Handbook Chapter 5

This is the fifth 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.

We’ve previously released:

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.

 

Open up an engineering textbook, and it’ll likely define tolerances as the “permissible limit or limits of variation.” To put it more simply, how close to your exact specification can you expect the final product to be?

Every manufacturing process has unique tolerances, and thermoforming is no different. It’s important to note that what we’re listing here are industry standard thermoforming tolerances. If you have a project that demands tolerances tighter than what is standard in the industry, we’d be happy to hear from you. Our team loves a good challenge.

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Helping Sunkist Upgrade Its Citrus Sorters

Large Part Thermoforming

SunKist SunSort Citrus Sorter

For people in the citrus industry, it’s common knowledge that Sunkist’s SunSort line of citrus sorters are the top of the line. So when the company was ready to upgrade the enclosure on its latest model from in-house sheet metal to a modular thermoformed design, we were thrilled to help.

The new thermoformed designs were able to help Sunkist improve durability, cut manufacturing costs and time, and help the new units stand out from the competition. But don’t just take our word for it. Head over to Plastics News, where you can read the whole story.

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