Many clients throughout the Parks 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.
Parks Best Plastic Sheet Supplier
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.
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.