Thermoformed Plastics Solutions Blog

Trends in Thermoforming

Posted by McClarin Plastics on Aug 6, 2015 2:17:22 PM

Industries are in constant flux. Availability of materials, advanced production processes and automation techniques, client requirements, consumer desires, and a huge number of other factors are always changing.

If an industry or an industry sector cannot keep pace with the changing times, they will be left behind, becoming obsolete. Thermoforming and the plastics industry have been able to keep up with the current green products trends in consumer preferences — sustainability and renewable alternative materials.

Sustainability

Basic sustainability can be quite easy to implement in plastics thermoforming. There are two simple practices that can jump start sustainability efforts for a thermoforming manufacturer. They are lightweighting and recycling.

Lightweighting and downgauging are material reduction methods. Downgauging, sometimes called thin-walling, is when a thinner gauge of sheet or extruded plastic is used in the thermoforming process of certain products, often packaging materials.

Lightweighting is a slightly more complex process. When a product is lightweighted, it is redesigned specifically to reduce the amount of material that each piece uses. The product’s use, shape, strength, load bearing requirements, possibility of downgauging, and other factors are all reconsidered and optimized to reduce the amount of material that is required.

Another sustainability initiative popular in the thermoforming industry is simple recycling. Instead of disposing of waste scraps, they can easily be collected.

Thermoforming manufacturers can then sell the plastic scraps to a specialized recycling facility. Alternatively, they can recycle the waste material themselves. There are new recycling technologies that allow thermoformers to integrate plastic scraps directly back into their own raw material stocks, saving costs and eliminating waste.

Renewable Alternative Materials

Sustainability goes hand in hand with renewability. Reducing usage of raw materials and eliminating waste are important, but their impact is minimal if dedicated steps toward using alternative and renewable materials are not also taken as well.

Traditionally, plastics are made from crude oil or natural gas, non-renewable resources whose use is harmful to the environment. Bioplastics are a burgeoning new alternative. Bioplastics are created using biomass, things like vegetable fats, oils and starches, cellulose, and microorganisms.

Bioplastics sources are naturally renewable: They can even be made out of agricultural byproducts, thereby reducing waste. Their production creates no harmful substances and uses less fossil fuel than production of traditional plastics.

 Bioplastics, which are naturally well-suited to the thermoforming process, are the future of plastic.

 There are a lot of choices to make if you are considering thermoforming for your products. It can be overwhelming, but McClarin Plastics is here to help. Contact us today to discuss your design requirements and specifications, and to learn how McClarin can help you meet them.

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Topics: thermoforming

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 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

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

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

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