Several modern conveniences that we enjoy every day are made possible thanks to vacuum forming. Without this versatile manufacturing process, life-saving medical devices, food packaging, and automobiles might look very different.
- In this guide, you will find an in-depth introduction to vacuum forming, including:
- An overview of the vacuum forming process.
- How to create molds for vacuum forming.
- The benefits and limitations of vacuum forming.
- How vacuum forming is used both commercially and independently.
- A short case study on vacuum forming and 3D printing.
What Is Vacuum Forming?
Vacuum forming is a manufacturing method used to shape plastic materials. During the vacuum forming process, a sheet of plastic is heated and then pulled around a single mold using suction.
Vacuum forming is used for a wide range of manufacturing applications, ranging from small custom parts produced on desktop devices to large parts manufactured on automated industrial machinery.
What are the Differences Between Vacuum Forming, Thermoforming, and Pressure Forming?
Thermoforming is a manufacturing process where a sheet of plastic is heated to become pliable, then shaped or contoured using a mold, and trimmed to create a final part or product. Vacuum forming and pressure forming are two of the most popular types of thermoforming processes. The main difference between vacuum forming and other thermoforming processes is the methods used to form the parts and the number and type of molds that are used.
Vacuum forming is the simplest type of plastic thermoforming, that uses one mold and vacuum pressure to obtain the desired part geometry. It is ideal for parts that only need to be precisely formed on one side, such as contoured packaging for food or electronics.
There are two basic types of molds—male or positive (which are convex) and female or negative, which are concave. With male molds, the sheet of plastic is placed over the mold to contour the inside dimensions of the plastic part. With female molds, the thermoplastic sheet is placed inside the mold to form the outer dimensions of the part precisely.
Read more: Introduction to Vacuum Forming