Many clients throughout the Travis Afb 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.
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Polycarbonate, otherwise known as its trademarked name, Lexan, is a group of thermoplastic polymers. They are used very much in the modern chemistry industry because they can be very easy worked and molded into different shapes and they can also be thermoformed. They show great capacities for temperature resistance, impact resistance as well as for optical properties. They are not grouped specifically into one position for their properties but are considered to be somewhere in between the engineering plastics and commodity plastics.
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to polycarbonate if they indeed can be labeled as such. The advantages of this material of course are because of its properties. They are being used more for household products now than before because of the quality of goods that they can produce. Manufacturers are designing items not only for the household but for use in laboratories and in industry because of its resistance to temperatures and its ability to be easy shaped. Another advantage is the fact it can be injected into various objects which allows it to be used for discs, bottles, glasses, lenses, audio player cases, and lab equipment.
The unfortunate side to polycarbonate is that because of its chemical makeup and property, it is recommended only for those products that are used once, not repeatedly. Although it has other properties such as resilience and toughness, repeated use of the one object may be potentially hazardous to the health. This is due to the leaching of Bisphenol A which has been shown over time to cause the enlargement of the reproductive organs in female mice. It is also said to be responsible for neural and behavioral changes when given to younger animals. It is not certain how this relates to human life but because of the uncertainty, there are warnings concerning the repeated use of bottles and other products made with polycarbonate.
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Plastic corrugated or corrugated plastic as it is commonly referred, is one of the main products used in the reusable packaging industry. Sure, there are other items in this packaging sector such as molded totes or heavy gauge thermoformed plastic trays, but nothing says returnable packaging quite like plastic corrugated. Virtually anything that is made of paper corrugated can be duplicated using corrugated plastic. These items include plastic corrugated boxes, stackable totes, corrugated plastic partitions and dunnage, as well as material handling carts and racks using this resilient material as a main component.
The following tips regarding plastic corrugated will help you think like packaging professional the next time a reusable packaging application crosses your desk.
1. Try different styles of plastic corrugated containers before purchasing a production quantity to make sure you have all of the features your project needs. The best catalog descriptions in the world are no substitute for testing corrugated plastic in real situations.
2. Test different thicknesses of plastic corrugated with your particular application. Corrugated plastic is available in thicknesses ranging from 2mm to 13mm. You may be able to save money by using thinner material.
3. Check to see if your supplier has stock sheets of plastic corrugated from which they can produce your corrugated plastic containers. This will result in a quicker lead time.
4. Compare prices between using a stock sheet of plastic corrugated which is then die cut to your container size and having custom run corrugated plastic sheets for your project. Custom run plastic corrugated sheet sizes should be more efficient for your supplier to run which will result in a lower price per container.
5. Consider applying a printed label instead of direct printing or silk screening on plastic corrugated. Labels on plastic corrugated can look just as nice, will last longer, and cost less than silk screening on corrugated plastic.
6. Ask if a utility or recycled grade of corrugated plastic is available. Utility plastic corrugated is less expensive than virgin material.
7. Evaluate the cost of running a small production run of plastic corrugated (less than 100 pieces) using sample making equipment instead of purchasing a die. There could be a significant price difference.
8. Consider having plastic corrugated partitions and dunnage rod locked so they don't come apart. Corrugated plastic dividers made this way are more stable and last longer.
9. Test plastic corrugated against your product to make sure it doesn't scratch. Plastic corrugated is generally non-abrasive but there are some products that are susceptible to scratching. For these applications use plastic corrugated lined with a non-abrasive coating such as spunbond fabric or even cross link foam.
10. Consider corrugated plastic for internal dunnage that traditionally has been done using wood, steel, or aluminum. Recent advances in plastic corrugated technology allow it to be nailed, screwed, and bolted which results in reusable packaging that is incredibly strong yet lightweight.
In closing, these tips should help the novice as well as the seasoned veteran find alternatives to paper packaging while reducing their cost. In this day and age of pressure for cost reductions, plastic corrugated returnable packaging solutions can help any company improve their bottom line.