Thin Gauge Thermoforming

Thin gauge thermoforming refers to the vacuum forming of product typically .060” and thinner. As opposed to heavy gauge, thin gauge thermoformed products are usually less permanent however much cheaper to manufacture per piece. Thin gauge products are usually formed out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate, or polystyrene. 

Thin gauge thermoforming is more suited for lighter duty applications, such as:

  • Food handling
  • Medical product handling
  • Retail packaging
  • Blister packages
  • Cups, trays, and clamshells

Billet Aluminum Tooling

Due to the aesthetic nature of thin gauge parts, billet aluminum tooling is the most widely used in the industry. The thinner the material, the more likely it is to show defects caused by mold surface imperfections. Instead of utilizing cast in temperature control line, billet aluminum molds are gun-drilled to provide water channels under the mold surface to allow temperature regulation.

In-line Thermoforming

Heavy gauge thermoforming most often utilizes a pre-cut plastic sheet that is loaded into a machine. Conversely, thin gauge thermoforming uses continuously extruded or roll-fed product that feeds directly into the machine, also called in-line thermoforming. In-line thermoforming produces significantly faster cycle times by eliminating the need for hand-loading plastic material shot after shot. Thin gauge material also allows heat to dissipate from the molding surface more rapidly.

Various types of stripper plates or trim dies can be incorporated into this process to further automate production. Since most thin gauge thermoformed products are used to keep food and medical products sterile, it is often required that thin gauge thermoformers operate their in-line machines in a clean room.

Although thin gauge thermoforming utilizes the same principles as heavy gauge to form products (heat and vacuum), the methods by which these are applied are quite different. Thin gauge in-line thermoforming is an excellent option for producing extremely high quantities of product at a low per piece cost.