Vacuum Forming & Thermoforming

The other 50%... In 2 minutes… (5 if you’re a slow reader)

So… In our last bombshell issue (the first one) we discussed corrugated plastic and its differences from paper corrugated. If you missed it, HERE’s a link. In this short write up we are going to dive into the other 50% of what we do.

 Vacuum forming!!

AKA thermoforming, also very close cousins to pressure forming. All of them describe the process of taking a solid sheet of plastic, ranging in thicknesses from .010 all the way past .300, heating it up to a specified temperature, then sucking and/or pushing it down into or around a mold. The plastic cools and is released from the mold (using black magic and trickery) then diecut or trimmed out to the shape or piece desired by the customer.

Now you might say, vacuum forming... I’ve never seen vacuum forming. I know I’ve seen injection molding... is that the same thing? The short answer to that is NO NO NO!! Without diving into the holy book of plastic forming, the main difference is injection molding allows solid shapes and 3D pieces where the sides aren’t mirrors of each other (the inside and outside aren’t separated by a thin sheet of plastic, additionally there’s no worry about draft angles). But I digress... We’re getting off topic!

Mainstream items that you see thermoformed would include clamshells, blister packs, medical device trays, material handling trays, food packaging trays, all the way up to heavy items like airline baggage totes, custom pallets, and rigid conveyer totes.

My go-to when anyone asks about thermoforming is that it can be that really annoying packaging that you have to get the jaws of life to open, nearly slitting your wrists in the process, (you know the kind)…


This is obviously the most known type, (I can feel your anger from here) but as stated above there are tons of other uses for thermoforming. Our website has a smattering of pictures you can check out! Thermoformed packaging can be sealed to itself, friction fit closed with a lid, lidded with Tyvek, and the list goes on, but I’ve only got two minutes!

Two HUGE benefits over other types of forming (not that I want to brag or anything) is its low run threshold (we’ve run as few as 10 parts) as well as its low cost of entry with tooling. Here at Kiva we can usually get you going on a new custom tool (polished aluminum production tool, not a janky wood tool) for less than $1,000 bucks! Try that on for size injection molding. Something tells me those jeans are a little too skinny!!

If you haven’t tried out thermoforming as a packaging solution, give us a call (or email, or smoke signal) we can help answer your questions and see if it might be a good fit. And if it’s not… (and it isn’t always a good fit) we’ll tell you. Better yet, we’ll tell you what the best fit might be and if we have it, give you a recommendation on who to call.