Many clients throughout the Alpine 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.
Alpine Best Plastic Sheet Supplier
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.
What Plastic Materials Are UV Stable?
Decorative concrete has become a very popular new flooring choice for both residential and commercial construction projects. They are easy to maintain, great for regions with a lot of sand or snow, and a good alternative to carpeting if the homeowner has allergies. Decorative concrete flooring is often installed in a new home early in the construction process, which can result in damage from paint splatters, grime from workboats, impact from falling materials, and wheeled traffic. How do you help safeguard these freshly polished floors from construction traffic and mishaps from dropped tools and building materials?
There are several different types of surface protection that protect newly-installed decorative concrete floors from damage. Many contractors use Masonite, sheet plastic, and slick films to try to protect concrete flooring. These items offer limited protection and have serious limitations. Products like plywood can scratch flooring and are typically heavy and difficult to store after use. Masonite is bulky and can't easily be repositioned on a job site. Occasionally, the masonite 4' x 8' sheets separate and allow wheeled traffic to directly roll over the new floor. Also, Masonite is not absorbent, so liquids flow off the sides and get into spaces between sheets, damaging the decorative concrete. Sheet plastic has its own set of challenges. While it is easier to move around a job site and is less expensive than other floor protection options, it can be very slippery on top of polished concrete flooring and may lead to worker injuries if someone falls or trips. Plastic sheeting moves easily, which means that without being taped down, it could slide on the floor. Lastly, sheet plastic offers no impact protection from dropped heavy items. Another option that contractors use to protect decorative concrete floors that doesn't work well are temporary carpets. The carpets have a rubber backing, which does not allow the concrete to breathe. While it makes for good protection against impacts, it is heavy and awkward to move and does not absorb spills well at all. It is also a very expensive type of protection.
Many builders have tried each of these methods to protect decorative concrete but nothing works perfectly. The ideal product would be breathable so that concrete can cure, absorb spills, prevent differential drying, and would provide impact protection. If possible, the product would be reusable and recyclable to reduce waste. Luckily, there are several surface protection products on the market that meet all of these requirements.
Ram Board™ is a heavy-duty floor protection product that is made of a thick cardboard-like material. One roll of Ram Board™ is the same thickness of ten sheets of Masonite, and since it comes in rolls, it is much easier to transport, move around, and store. It lays fast and flat upon being unrolled and allows moisture to escape for curing floors. Ram Board™ is water-resistant and prevents oils and other materials from seeping through and staining concrete flooring. Ram Board's breathable Vapor Cure™ tape can be used to tape ram board sheets together and does not result in cure lines.
SurfacePro™ is a thick, breathable floor protection product that has a skid-resistant backing. It comes in large rolls and easily cuts to size. SurfacePro™ is reusable and provides 40 mils of protection for decorative concrete floors. The breathable product prevents cure lines in newly-installed concrete and it won't invalidate the flooring manufacturer's warranty. Unlike the paper Ramboard, Surface Pro is reusable and last longer.
SurfaceLiner Vapor™ is a new product that is similar to SurfacePro™, but also has a lightly tacky back that almost acts like an adhesive. It lightly grips floors without leaving any sort of residue. SurfaceLiner Vapor™ is breathable and vapor-transmitting for new concrete floors. It is also waterproof and tear-resistant. SurfaceLiner Vapor™ has padded protection that is very effective against impact damage.
,EZcover by McTech Group is a natural cellulose fiber composite that immediately starts absorbing a spill without degrading. It has a dense top layer and a soft cushion on the bottom and is designed to take impacts. EZcover breathes well, is relatively easy to cut/shape around objects, and comes in large rolls for easy placement over large areas. If kept in decent condition, EZcover is reusable. It is its durable against construction traffic and wheeled traffic and the edges can be taped if needed.
While contractors can use basic products such as sheet plastic, Masonite, and carpeting to protect decorative concrete floors, the most effective types of protection are specialized floor protection products. Products such as Ram Board™, Surface Pro™, SurfaceLiner Vapor™, and EZcover are specifically designed to provide the very best protection at a competitive price. Remember; protection is an investment and prevents the high costs of replacement or repair that may happen if the expensive flooring is not protected. Contact your local surface protection supplier for more information how to best protect your valuable concrete floors.