Many clients throughout the Gerlach area have heard the term vacuum forming, but they do not know what it really means, and they don’t know what it does or how it can help them in their business. Vacuum forming is a procedure that can shape performance plastic sheet materials into many different forms, and it is one of the best ways to make a host of different plastic products.
How Does it Work?
A type of thermoforming, vacuum forming, is a process by which a plastic sheet or thin sheet of plastic, such as a PVC sheet, is heated up so that it becomes malleable. The heating process includes the use of aluminum plates and infrared heaters. The heat application will come from the top and the bottom so that it is uniform and will provide the best results.
Once the heat finally reaches the proper temperature (which can differ based on the thickness of the sheets in use) the vacuum will mold the sheets to form the product. The vacuum is able to provide an airtight environment, which is going to be better for the overall molding process.
Products from Vacuum Forming
With this type of thermoforming, one could create countless types of products, and you may find that your company could benefit greatly from the process. One of the most common products using vacuum forming today are children’s plastic toys, but that’s just one of the possibilities. Product packaging is another option, and it is one most companies that create, manufacture, package and sell products could use. Most of the plastic items that you see around the home and office have gone through some type of thermoforming, and it’s often the vacuum process.
Gerlach Best Plastic Sheet Supplier
We use many products with little to no regard as to how they came to be. One such product is called polystyrene. This is a type of polymer plastic that is used in manufacturing, construction, and for household items that we use everyday. Polystyrene sheets can be molded to specific shapes and sizes and are used in a variety of ways. It can be made into all different types of colors, but is most commonly found to be white or clear.
In manufacturing and construction, polystyrene sheets are used as a packing material. Think of the box your fragile electronics come in. There is usually that hard foam surrounding your purchase, protecting it from bumps and drops, right? This is an insulator formed from expanded polystyrene sheets. In construction, polystyrene sheets are used as molds for concrete or other building materials. They are also used as a form of insulation.
When thinking of it's household uses, you can bet that polystyrene sheets are used in ways that you would never believe! Those little Styrofoam cups we drink from are made from that product. The yogurt you may have eaten for lunch was put into a cup made from it too! Polystyrene is used to make CD and DVD cases, molded to form the handles for disposable razors, and used in many toys that your children may have. It is also a popular product used in many craft materials.
So, why is this stuff so great? For a lot of reasons!
It is lightweight and very easy to work with.
It can be molded into virtually any shape or size, come in large and small sheets or blocks, and can fit easily into a box.
It is a good insulator, protecting objects from water and water vapor, as well as fungus and mildew.
It protects fragile objects from drops, bumps and scratches that may otherwise cause damage.
Polystyrene sheets are available for purchase in many home improvement stores for personal use. You can cut them to the size you need quite easily, or they may be able to cut them at the store, just ask the salesperson if they offer the service. For large quantities used for more commercial purposes, companies on the Internet will be able to fill your order to your exact specifications.
Vacuum Forming With a Vacuum Formable Plastic Sheet
Some of our most popular questions are "Is this material UV stable?", or "How long will this last in direct sunlight?", or some similar themed question. These are great questions. Just look at the 'cheap' backyard furniture you bought last season, yep, it is faded and cracking or broken. Why is that?
The quick answer is the material had either no UV (Ultra Violet Light) stabilizer or very little - or it was simply the wrong plastic for the part. Most plastic materials are not UV stable to start with, other than Acrylic which is invisible to UV. All other materials need a little something (an additive) to give it the protection it may need from the sun. Many plastic materials, if given the proper UV resistant additives, can be used in direct sunlight for 10 - 15 years, or more, providing excellent performance in harsh environments.
The first factor in picking such a material is the intended use. Not all materials are good choices for all applications. While some materials will perform exceptionally well, others plastic materials under the same conditions will fail. Many plastic materials are not well suited to: high temperatures, chemical exposure, UV light, high impact, or electrical applications. Please contact us for details on a material that may meet your needs.
HDPE sheet is one of the best materials for long term outdoor use, if given the proper additives (without UV inhibitors it will fade and crack quickly). Next time you drive by a children's playground in your local city, look at the brightly colored panels used to make the play equipment. This is a HDPE sheet with heavy UV additives, and this makes an excellent application. Available in a rainbow of colors and able to be fabricated easily, this material is excellent for many outdoor applications.
If your application is more mechanical, other materials that might be used would be: Polycarbonate, UHMW, ABS (especially with Korad - Acrylic cover), Acetal, Noryl and many more.
Our standard Makrolon Polycarbonate is a UV stable material in sheet, and is frequently used in replacement glazing applications. The remaining materials on the list are available in Black (a carbon black pigment) which extends outdoor usage. While still not recommended for direct sunlight, they can be used with a good possibility of success - depending on design. Plastics can become brittle or lose properties over time if material does not have UV stabilization, with the proper material and the proper additives, you can get years of trouble free service.
Additionally, many materials will work well if they are painted to cover the plastic surface. Many spray paints, especially Acrylic paints, last many years in the sun. Please check with us, as some material do not accept paints or coatings.
Take some time to review your requirements, and the properties of the plastic you intend to use. The right material will provide the best performance. Contact any of our Plasticologists for assistance, call 866-832-9315 or email us. You can always do research on plastic materials at Industrial Plastic Supply.