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Thermoforming is a versatile and cost-effective technique for molding thermoplastics into various shapes and designs. The process involves heating a thermoplastic sheet to a pliable forming temperature, stretching it over a single-surface mold, and cooling it to a finished shape. This produces a strong and durable product with a uniform and consistent thickness.

Kiva Container is a leader in thermoforming, offering a wide range of capabilities that encompass light and heavy-duty applications. Our team is equipped with advanced technology, enabling us to provide customers with the highest quality and most cost-effective solutions possible.

How Does Thermoforming Work?

Modern electronics, consumer goods, and other custom-manufactured parts necessitate correct fit, physical protection, static support, and cleanliness. This is especially the case when these products are shipped or handled. Many components are extremely delicate and may lose functionality if even slightly damaged. Here is where thermoforming comes into play.

Thermoforming is crucial to manufacturing and fabricating electronics, consumer goods, and custom-made components. These products require a precise fit and protection during shipping and handling from physical damage, static electricity, and contamination.

The process includes heating a thermoplastic sheet to a temperature at which it is malleable. Then, the sheet is stretched over a mold, which determines the product’s final shape. After the thermoplastic has taken the form of the mold, it is cooled to harden it into the desired shape.

Some of the advantages of the process are as follows:

  • Ability to produce a wide range of products with varying thicknesses, sizes, and shapes
  • Higher level of accuracy and uniformity
  • Increased production speed and efficiency
  • Lower production costs
  • Minimal material waste

Types of Thermoforming

Each forming process has particular benefits and drawbacks, making it vital to choose the most appropriate one for a given application. Here are the commonly used techniques in various industries:

Vacuum Forming

Vacuum forming is a well-established and cost-effective thermoforming process. It involves heating a plastic sheet until it becomes soft and pliable, then stretching it over a mold using vacuum pressure. The mold is typically made of wood, metal, or plaster and is designed to create the desired product shape.

This method is ideally suited for creating huge and intricately formed pieces and has significant advantages over other forming techniques. For example, the vacuum pressure allows high precision and uniformity in the finished product. This makes it perfect for the creation of complicated designs and forms.

One of the primary drawbacks of vacuum forming is that it is not well-suited for creating intricate, microscopic parts with good features. The vacuum pressure in the process might cause the plastic to expand and lose form. Additionally, the technique can be limited in terms of the types of materials that can be used.

Mechanical Forming

Mechanical forming uses mechanical force to shape the plastic into the desired shape. It is well suited for fabricating complex-shaped parts requiring high precision and accuracy levels. The mechanical power used in the process allows for greater control over the final product, making it easier to achieve the desired form.

The comparatively high cost and complexity of mechanical forming are among its downsides. It also requires precise control over the amount of mechanical force used, making it challenging to achieve consistent quality from one part to the next.

Pressure Forming

Similar to traditional vacuum forming, pressure forming involves drawing material against a mold’s contours with a vacuum. However, it adds significant positive air pressure to the component’s rear by altering the tooling and forming machinery. This increased force delivered to the mold’s surface area produces fine features.

While vacuum forming works well on simple goods that do not require significant detail, pressure forming is the ideal technique when aesthetics are crucial. It generates plastic pieces with sharper details and features and is a more affordable alternative to injection molding.

Thermoforming Applications

Thermoforming offers several applications in the industrial and manufacturing industries. Its efficiency and cost-effectiveness also make it the preferred method for mass-producing plastic components. The following are some of its uses and applications in multiple sectors:

Automotive Industry

Plastic Pallets

Automotive thermoforming involves heating a single plastic sheet until it becomes sufficiently pliable and flexible to mold or shape around a specially created mold. It is commonly used to create dashboards, center consoles, interior door panels, truck bed liners, and bumper fascias.

The type of plastic in the automotive industry will depend on the application’s specific requirements. These include strength, flexibility, transparency, and resistance to heat and chemicals. The most common plastic materials used are as follows:

  • Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
  • Polyethylene terephthalate glycol
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyvinyl chloride
  • Thermoplastic olefin

Medical Industry

Medical Tool Packaging

Thermoforming has many applications in the medical industry, particularly for manufacturing equipment like bedpans, examination tables, and other hospital furniture and tools. It also produces medical trays and disposable products, including syringe shields, catheter packaging, and blood collection cups.

The following are the most common plastics for fabricating medical equipment:

  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
  • Flame-rated polyvinyl chloride
  • High-impact polystyrene
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polyethylene

Agricultural Industry

Heavy Gauge Boom Tray

Thermoforming is used in a variety of applications in the agricultural industry, including livestock feed and water containers, greenhouse trays, and nursery pots. It is also applied in irrigation and drainage systems for efficient water management.

Common types of plastics used in this sector include the following:

  • Acrylic
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
  • Thermoplastic olefin
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polyvinyl chloride

Packaging Industry

Evidence Boxes

This process is also ideal for producing clear, lightweight, and durable packaging that provides a high level of product protection. Another application of the technique includes the production of custom-shaped containers, lids, and inserts for the food and beverage industry.

The following are common types of thermoforming plastics used in the packaging industry:

  • Acrylic
  • High-density polyethylene
  • Polyethylene terephthalate
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyvinyl chloride

Kiva Container Thermoforming Capabilities

At Kiva Container, we utilize cutting-edge thermoforming equipment to handle roll and sheet stock for light- or heavy-gauge forming. Using vacuum treatments and heat, we precisely shape solid plastic into complex shapes. Moreover, our machinery can handle roll-fed substrates up to 23” by 18” or sheet-fed materials up to 46” by 54”

Our professional team is equipped and skilled in the following manufacturing processes:

  • Die cutting
  • Welding
  • Pad printing
  • Silk screening
  • Roll-fed inline forming
  • Sheet-fed forming
  • Secondary routing and trimming
  • Hot stamping
  • ESD processing
  • Cleaning and bagging
kiva container facility

Material Availability

Assorted ESD Packaging

Kiva Container has vast experience working with various materials, which enables us to offer comprehensive and versatile manufacturing solutions. We often utilize the following materials in our work:

  • Polyvinyl chloride
  • Styrene
  • Polyethylene terephthalate glycol
  • Polyethylene terephthalate
  • Recycled polyethylene terephthalate
  • Conductive styrene
  • Polyethylene
  • Acrylic
  • Polycarbonate
  • Startrite M809
  • S680
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
  • High-density polyethylene
  • High molecular weight polyethylene
  • Kydex

Contact Kiva Container for Your Thermoforming Needs

For more than 20 years, Kiva Container has been offering expert solutions in mixing and converting a variety of reusable substrates into returnable packaging! We can handle everything from blisters and clamshells to material handling sleeves made of corrugated plastic.

Our specialization is producing cost-effective, returnable packaging for various industries. These include high-tech aerospace, diversified agriculture, and a wide range of niche sectors.

Contact us for inquiries or to learn more about our products and services! You may also request a quote, and we will be happy to help you with your needs.
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