Thermoformed Plastics Solutions Blog

The Spectrum of Thermoformed Parts in Construction

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Sep 24, 2014 1:59:00 PM

In the past few years, there have been numerous technological advancements in the world of plastics. Improvements in strength, weight and resistance to harsh environments have influenced many manufacturers and assemblers to replace traditional metal products with plastics. New elastomers coming to market can perform just as well as metals for longer durations and with less cost and drastic reductions in weight.

Thermoforming-ServicesThermoformed structural and decorative components are now available for the transportation, construction, agriculture and other manufacturing industries. Construction and Transportation are two of the largest sectors benefitting from the advancements of plastics.

Products in these sectors range from interior trim pieces and exterior panels, as well as well as structural composites.  Materials utilized can be optimized for durability, appearance, and uniformity providing alternatives to heavy sheet metal and injection-molded parts.

In construction and transportation, thermoformed plastics are used more specifically for the following types of products:

  • Complex Hood Assemblies
  • Durable Fenders & Guards & Roofs
  • Stylish Cab Interiors
  • Seating Components
  • Rail and Bus Interior Systems
  • Rail Exteriors such as End Caps/Skirts
  • Hood Assemblies
  • Engine Covers

Plastics have taken the place of metal as the material of choice for much of a vehicle’s body and components. By making careful selections as to the type of plastic, manufacturing processes and additives, there are noticeable advantages to choosing plastics over metal.

  • Improved impact resistance: Stronger and more rigid plastics lead to direct reductions in maintenance cost.
  • For transportation and construction, weight reduction equals better fuel and transportation economies. As the cost of fuel and transportation has continued to increase, this expense has become one of the main concerns to suppliers and customers.
  • Plastics are more dependable within harsh environments. Plastics do not rust and their overall fabrication can be reformulated for better heat resistance or UV protection. These days, plastic formulas can be altered to maintain their original appearance much longer than metals.
  • With colors mixed throughout the product, they camouflage scratches better and maintain their overall appearance longer than metal. The color can be integral to the material and is not a postproduction layer to protect the metal from the environment. 
  • In addition, plastic formulas can now be optimized to prevent degradation due to heat or UV exposure. They are now even used as shields to protect other products from the destructive high-energy heat and UV rays.

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Topics: thermoplastics, thermoforming

Benefits of Closed Molding for Applications in Transportation

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Aug 14, 2014 11:03:00 AM

The process of “closed molding” composite parts provides many benefits for a wide range of applications in the transportation industry. 1

At McClarin, the closed molding process includes three major methods: Resin Transfer Molding (RTM), Light RTM (LRTM) and Vacuum Infusion Process (VIP).

Light RTM and Vacuum Infusion are closed molding processes often used by McClarin for Transport Applications.

Advantages are based in the fact that very large parts, of medium volume runs can be accomplished at low project costs. These processes also allow for laminate designs that target structure, low weight applications for interior and exterior component applications.

Close-Molding-Truck-BodyBoth processes include glass fiber laid or packed into the mold. The mold is then clamped (LRTM) or bagged (Infusion) and a resin is pumped/infused in under pressure vacuum.  Once all of the air within the mold has been displaced with resin the cure cycle begins. This rather simple approach allows for very large intricate molds to be made with very low tooling costs. With the addition of gel coats, finished parts may require only minor trimming for a finishing step.

The Benefits of Closed Molding Components

  • They are durable and offer high performance.
  • They can adhere to strict guidelines pertaining to toxicity, flammability, smoke emission, etc.
  • They can be custom designed and engineered
  • They are affordable from an overall project spend comparison.
  • Fast production for quicker product availability.

Closed molding has been used in the transportation industry for decades. Throughout the years, mold designs have been enhanced, as well as product engineering, resulting in a better finished product. Regardless of what kind of transportation component you are looking for, closed molding products should be given consideration as they can provide high quality results and may be best suited for the application.

If you are interested in learning more about the closed molding process or if you’d like to discuss your upcoming project with a designer engineer, contact the experts of McClarin Plastics today and ask to speak with one of our experts.

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Topics: transportation, closed molding, transportation industry

Contract Manufacturing: 3 Reasons a “Job Shop” Isn’t Enough

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Jul 31, 2014 1:19:00 PM

We all know that “you get what you pay for,” but there are other reasons to look at how value affects the bottom line in any supply chain. In selecting a supply partner, here are some items for consideration.

1. “Can your candidate support your supply-chain needs? In reference to a new product launch, second tier component supply management, and downstream design/doc control.”

2. The next question is: “Does your candidate offer the value-added services your product requires?”

Not all candidates can match the range of services that you may need from a high-quality contract manufacturer, which gives you enormous flexibility and reliability in producing and delivering your orders. Here are some of the services you should come to expect from a full-service supplier:

  • Assembly
  • Custom Painting
  • Logistics
  • Material Systems
  • Packaging
  • Adhesive Bonding

An all-in-one solution with management and supply-chain support, like McClarin support, is not typical in the marketplace.

3. “Is their expertise matched to the unique nature of your business?”

At McClarin, Value-Added Manufacturing is the hallmark of our success. We specialize in matching the unique requirements of each order from each customer in the most specific way possible. What sets our capabilities apart from even the most-sophisticated job shop lies in the extensive resources we can bring to bear on your project’s needs.

In terms of quality, we offer ISO 9001-certified manufacturing services bolstered by our own Quality Manual-regulated production values. With Certified Composite Technicians (CCTs) and a CCT Instructor on staff, Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt training, and a comprehensive program management system, we provide continuous improvement in results for all of our customers. Moreover, our state-of-the-art facilities and equipment are second to none in delivering the manufacturing expertise required to meet the most demanding orders.

So the next time you hear someone say that one of your components can be produced for a lot less by a job shop he or she knows about, ask yourself whether that’s really going to be good enough for your company’s bottom line. Then pick up the phone and talk to a premier contract manufacturer. 

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Topics: Contract Manufacturer, thermoplastics, manufacturing

Benefits of Proper Thermoforming Material Selection

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Jul 17, 2014 10:08:00 AM

Thermoforming is a manufacturing process in which a sheet of plastic is heated to a pliable temperature, molded to a preplanned shape, and trimmed, resulting in a usable product. The plastic is heated in an oven to a specific temperature so it can be stretched into or onto a mold and cooled into a finished shape.

In its simplest form this is done with a tabletop sized machine, however, for complex, high-volume applications, production machines are utilized to heat and form the plastic sheets as part of a high-speed continuous process. This can produce multiple finished parts per hour. Thick-gauge thermoforming products are used in many industries and include decorative panels, machine covers, hoods, functional parts, and more.

It is a material efficient process as thermoforming companies usually recycle their scrap and plastic waste. The trimmed material is compressed in a baling machine or fed into a grinder to produce ground flakes. This scrap and waste plastic is usually converted back into extruded sheets for forming.

ThermoformingThere are many different types of plastics on the market today. Along with a wide variety of off the shelf plastics, new and unique materials can be custom formulated. Formulating a plastic can enhance one or more of a plastic's characteristics; however, enhancing one characteristic can weaken others. It is critical to select the appropriate plastic material and its characteristics for an application.

Plastic Material Characteristics

Following is a partial list of a few of the physical properties of plastic. These are used to describe unique properties for plastic materials.

Mechanical Characteristics

  • Impact StrengthThe capability to absorb a sudden force or shock without breaking
  • Tensile Strength/Ultimate Strength Maximum stress caused by an applied load where the material stretches in the same direction as the applied load
  • Elongation A materials percent increase in length under strain
  • Stiffness/Flexural Modulus - The rigidity of the plastic

Physical Characteristics

  • Hardness - Resistance to cracking, scratching or abrasion
  • Thickness - Many materials can be used thick or thin

Electrical, Chemical and Heat related Characteristics

  • Dielectric Strength - The capability to withstand an electric field
  • Chemical Resistance - The ability to resist damage by chemical interactions
  • Flammability - The capability to support combustion
  • Thermal Conductivity - The amount of heat that can be transported (heat flow)
  • Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) - The volume change with temperature
  • Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion (CLTE) - The percent change in length per degree temperature change
  • Percent Shrinkage - Amount the material will shrink, post forming
  • Forming Range Range in temperature where a material can be thermoformed while yielding acceptable parts
  • Self-Lubrication - Does the material have its own non-stick characteristics

Aesthetic and Surface Characteristics

  • Appearance - Plastics can be engineered to select for the following qualities
    • Surface Uniformity
    • Color
    • Gloss
    • Texture
  • Weathering Resistance - How well does the plastic resist UV and IR wavelengths, as well as extreme environmental conditions

Economic Characteristics

  • Life Expectancy - How long will the product last before it breaks down
  • Cost - What is the cost of the material, both immediate and long-term
  • Plastics may be enhanced to meet specific industry or government agency's approval requirements (i.e. FDA)

It is vital to determine the specifically desired characteristics for the project. Keeping the factors listed above in mind, you can start to do this at a very early stage.

To help better evaluate all of these options and how to design with material selection in mind, McClarin Plastics has produced an eBook about the advantages of proper Thermoforming Material Selection. You can download a copy here.

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Topics: thermoforming

Benefits of Commonly Used Thermoforming Materials for Your Next Project

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on May 16, 2014 5:30:06 PM

If you are interested in learning more about the most advantageous material for your next project, we can help. For years we have been a partner with companies in need of quality, thermoformed components. From design to development, building, assembly, and delivery McClarin Plastics focuses on providing only the highest level of quality, with the right material matched to the needs of our customers.

In the case of thermoforming, there are a number of factors to consider. Here are some of the common materials utilized in this process and the factors that go into determining when they are the best fit for a project:


Acrylic sheeting is flexible and completely transparent. It also exhibits great impact strength, which allows it to be used in the place of glass. It is lighter in weight, half that of glass, and nearly 100% weather resistant. Its transparency, gloss and shape are nearly unaffected by exposure to weather or highly corrosive atmospheres. This material can withstand exposure to UV light and fluorescent lamps without darkening or deteriorating.

Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)

ABS is one of the most widely used products in thermoplastics. It has high stiffness and impact strength. This combined with excellent hardness; make it a perfect material for a variety of applications. Along with its physical characteristics, it also has great chemical and moisture resistance. It is easily machined and comes in a variety of pre-formulated products for a variety of jobs. However, it is highly sensitive to UV radiation and must be properly protected for extended exposure.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is a plastic made from petroleum. HDPE is a very commonly recycled plastic, making it very good for consumer and disposable goods. It is resistant to a variety of solvents and is used for many applications, including liquid containers, chemical containment, pre-formed sheds, plastic tables and chairs.


Polystyrene is a clear plastic, easily molded, with strong chemical resistance and high dielectric strength, and is quite inexpensive. However, it cracks easily and has very low impact strength. It is used for disposable cups, temporary decorative and electrical applications. 

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)

HIPS is a stronger and more scratch resistant product than polystyrene. It is also very inexpensive and easily processed. HIPS is used for higher quality goods, or products that demand greater durability, such as household appliances, hard cases, calculators and computer housings.

Glycolized Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETG)

PETG is very lightweight and can be semi-rigid to rigid, varying with its thickness. It works well as a gas and moisture barrier. It is also a good base for a barrier to alcohol and solvents. It is naturally colorless and transparent to light.

Polycarbonates (PC)

Polycarbonates are polymers created from oil and hydrocarbons. They are easily worked and formed with high precision forming, and are widely used in the modern chemical industry. They have very high impact strength with high clarity and acts as excellent thermal insulators with a very high heat distortion limit. They have become common in house wares, laboratories and industry.

Once a base plastic is selected, its recipe can be enhanced to maximize specific characteristics. One recipe might add additional amounts of rubber to a standard ABS in order to increase its impact strength characteristics. However, the higher impact strength would come at the cost of some of the material hardness and susceptibility to scratching. 

Determining the Proper Material for the Job

All of the previously mentioned plastics have been thermoformed for many years. Each has their own base characteristics, and each will respond differently to alterations of its chemical recipe. When it is time to select a plastic to use for a job, and what alterations might benefit the raw material, it is critical to determine the beneficial characteristics for the application. 

What strength is required for the part to do its job, what kind of environment will the part be used within, what happens to the part at its end of life (is it a consumable, recyclable, or a durable good?), and what kinds of stresses will the part endure? 

After determining the critical characteristics, a standard base material can be selected upon which these critical characteristics can be enhanced. The recipe is then altered to maximize these characteristics or enhance multiply desired properties. However, it is always important to remember that an enhancement to one characteristic usually degrades another characteristic. 

To learn more about the entire material selection process for a thermoformed part, click the button below and download our free eBook entitled: The Importance of Material Selection When Using the Thermoforming Process

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Topics: thermoforming, material selection

Benefits of Contract Manufacturing

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Apr 30, 2014 3:26:00 PM

The benefits of contract manufacturing go beyond the completion of a manufacturing project. In today’s market, many manufacturing projects stand to gain better quality, productivity and cost efficiency by contracting a specialist in the field. Contract manufacturers have the expertise to provide practical advice in all stages of the production process. They have the right equipment to produce high quality parts, and are managed by trained professionals. Contract manufacturers offer vital support, knowledge and value to specialized projects. 

Reduced Costs in Labor and Production

A major benefit of hiring a contract manufacturer is reduced overall costs, both in time and money. With a contract manufacturer, companies eliminate the need to pay for a dedicated manufacturing facility. They also forego the cost of equipment and training for employees.

Preparing for a big project also takes a significant amount of time that some companies don’t have. Contract manufacturers have all of the necessary components to begin a project immediately after the contract and quote have been accepted.

Leveraging Availability of Resources

In addition to time and money, managing a large-scale project is a serious commitment. Without the proper resources, the responsibility of handling such an operation can quickly become overwhelming.

Hiring a contract manufacturer means that you can place the responsibility of project production on professionals with years of experience managing successful programs. This leaves companies to focus on their core competencies and customers, without being impeded by the details of a side job.

Expertise in Every Stage of the Process

Contract manufacturers are run by experts who also offer design and development support in all stages of the manufacturing process. These specialists have experience with similar projects and the knowledge to overcome common production obstacles.

They work together as a team to help companies select the right tooling, materials and machining to meet set requirements. Value-added programs from contract manufacturers can mean the difference between an ordinary or outstanding product.

Contract manufacturing is an excellent option for companies that do not have the time or resources to spend on new facilities, equipment and training for a construction project. It is a cost-effective and efficient way to ensure a high-quality product in the shortest possible time. Enlisting the help of a reliable contract manufacturer is perhaps the easiest way to bring a tough project to fruition.

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The Redesigned

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Apr 16, 2014 12:20:00 PM

McClarin Plastics is excited to announce the launch of our newly redesigned website, featuring a simplified design, enhanced navigation and more useful resources.

In a continuing effort to help you make the most of our offerings, we focused on creating a streamlined platform that allows you to find the information that you need, quickly. Our redesign facilitates an improved user experience for both new and previous visitors. 

A New Layout for Modern Technology

McClarin_SiteHeaderOne of the first things that you’ll notice is the simplified layout.  We kept our site user-friendly with a top navigation bar that’s visible without any scrolling. You can access all of our subpages at all times during your visit, which makes navigating through different pages of our site simple. 

Our website features a responsive design. That means that it is compatible with mobile devices of all sizes. The site will scale to size to fit any screen, so you’ll have the same user experience no matter how or when you view it. It’ll look just as great on a smartphone as it does on a desktop computer. 

All the Resources You Need

We also wanted our site to be a comprehensive resource for all your questions about the company, so we also added in-depth details on all our processes and capabilities. You can read the latest company and industry news and events, and learn about the various industries that McClarin serves. You can even browse through case studies of past work and download useful eBooks for free.

We encourage you to explore the new, sleek design and expanded content on our site.  The redesigned platform is an excellent place to start if you’re interested in McClarin’s custom thermoformed plastics and fiberglass reinforced plastic. 

And if you have questions or would like to learn more about our services, you can contact a McClarin representative below:

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Topics: McClarin Plastics

3 Substantial Benefits of Thermoplastics and the Thermoforming Process

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Apr 3, 2014 1:47:00 PM

Despite their prevalence in society, many people don’t know much about thermoplastics and the thermoforming process. From the moment you were born to the first time you turned the key in a car, thermoplastics have impacted your life in some form or another. Here are a few things you may not have realized about thermoplastics and the processes that go into manufacturing with them.

On a Larger Scale

Thermoforming-ServicesThermoformed Plastics are ideal for over-sized applications because they can be molded into large, continuous and smooth shapes with relative ease. Thermoformed Plastics are at times used to replace metal in existing applications and are often chosen over injection molded parts where change flexibility, and high tooling costs are a concern.

To see the scale of what can be manufactured through thermoforming, take a closer look at some of our past projects and the applications for which we provide contract manufacturing services for our customers.

Thermoplastics in Your Life

Thermoforming is a versatile process that can be used to manufacture a number of products, from hospital trays and food containers, to large scale projects such as the ones McClarin works on for our clients. These large scale applications include manufacturing of panels and hoods for heavy trucks, buses, and construction equipment, as well as products for the agricultural, aerospace, defense, machinery, and building products industries.

Metal Conversions in Modern Manufacturing

Metal is incredibly durable, but it has a number of potential pitfalls as well. It’s heavy, it’s often expensive, and it’s prone to corrosion like rust. That’s why thermoforming has been such an effective solution for so many industries modernizing and streamlining their processes. Metal to plastic conversions for pipe fittings, shipping containers, machine covers, doors, and panels are prevalent in a number of industries.

Advantages of Using Thermoforming in Manufacturing

Thermoforming or vacuum forming is a lower cost alternative for molded products. Tooling costs are much less when compared to higher volume, matched mold processes. Additionally, since the “net shape” is usually trimmed from the part, there is design flexibility for easily changing trim or adding holes and cutouts.

Illustrating some of the more impressive things that can be done with thermoplastics, McClarin Plastics offers a range of thermoforming and vacuum forming services to craft large scale components for the medical, agricultural, transportation, and construction industries. Read more about thermoformin and the material selection process in our eBook:

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Topics: thermoplastics, thermoforming

The Plastics Advantage

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Jan 6, 2014 1:41:00 PM

In a previous blog, we wrote about the subtle shift towards plastic in an industry traditionally dominated by metal. 

The Plastics Advantage eBook (1)To further support our observation that plastic can successfully replace metal parts in the transportation industry, we conducted our own case study analyzing the ways that plastic parts can tangibly improve upon metal in transportation vehicles such as trucks, vans and buses.

We found that plastic parts, which have their own unique properties, do indeed have an edge over traditional parts in transportation applications.

Plastic's Invulnerability to Rust

One of the clearest advantages of plastic over metal is its invulnerability to rust. A natural enemy to most metals, rust weakens and compromises the strength and functionality of many transportation parts. Vehicles that drive through salt and snow environments are especially prone to damage due to corroded metal.

One solution is to use parts made of plastic, which are just as durable and will “contribute to a positive opinion of the product over an extended period of time,” leading to higher resale values.

Reducing Fuel Consumption with Plastic

Another benefit of plastic parts is fuel economy. Plastic is significantly lighter than metal, which makes a difference when it comes to gas efficiency. A vehicle with lighter parts will consume less gas on the road and require fewer fill-ups along the way.

This is an especially compelling benefit, considering the fact that “fuel expense has become a main concern to end users.” We’ve found that certain plastic parts are just as effective as their metal counterparts in functionality, durability and strength. With the added advantage of lightness, however, trucks, vans and buses with plastic parts are better for the environment and for project budgeting.

Design Flexibility in Plastic

Plastic permits more design flexibility than metal, which allows designers to create parts that are also more aerodynamic and aesthetically appealing. Plastic can be molded into smoother shapes than metal, which contributes to a softer, and perhaps more pleasing, appearance. Manufacturers can take advantage of this feature to “create an individual and distinctive appearance… [and] emphasize brand characteristics.”

The malleability of plastic also allows for simplified parts that reduce the drag from air moving past the vehicle. This, in turn, cuts down the amount of fuel consumed during transportation. 

In the past, McClarin has constructed plastic side cladding, sleeper housing and fairing for vehicles in “numerous shapes…not economically possible in metal,” that were not only aesthetically pleasing and aerodynamic, but also reduced the number of parts in the whole assembly.

Learn More About the Plastics Advantage

In our case study, titled The Plastics Advantage, we explored the varying ways in which plastics outperform metal in the transportation industry. Metal parts are replaced with plastic ones in rigs, for example, with great success.

We’ve built plastic bumpers, hoods, cladding and fenders. Our parts stood up to tests of durability and functionality while imparting additional benefits such as fuel efficiency and design flexibility.  To read more about the transportation industry’s conversion to plastics, feel free to download a copy of the case study from our website.  

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The Auto Industry Embraces Plastics One Piece at a Time

Posted by Jeffrey Geiman on Oct 28, 2013 8:59:00 AM

We encounter plastics on a daily basis, from the pen we use to write to the bags that carry our groceries. This low cost, lightweight and versatile material has become so ubiquitous in modern society that it's hard to find an industry where plastic has not made its mark. Even the auto industry, which typically relies on parts made of metal, is slowly embracing the use of plastic in today's automobiles.

In an effort to meet the EPA's Fuel Economy Regulations, car engineers are now using plastic to build lighter parts without compromising performance.

Fotosearch k5908249Daimler Chrysler was the first automaker to integrate a polymer oil pan module, an oil pan with an aluminum upper shell and plastic lower shell. Made from thermoformed nylon resin, the plastic lower shell of the oil pan not only reduces the weight of the product, but also improves functionality and cost efficiency.

An oil pan made partially from plastic delivers several significant benefits. Because it is lighter than oil pans made entirely from aluminum, it increases fuel savings while reducing CO2 emissions. The flexibility of plastic material also permits more design freedom and opportunities to improve product performance. Lastly, the use of plastic instead of metal reduces the cost of tooling and simplifies production.

The successful integration of this thermoformed part opens the door for designers to expand the use of thermoplastic polymers for additional automobile parts. This lightweight material features both structural stability and ease of molding, making it an ideal material for continued use throughout the auto industry.  

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Topics: McClarin Plastics, Chrysler, Automotive Industry