What Is Plastic Manufacturing? Benefits of Using Plastics in the Manufacturing Industry Thermoforming Other Plastic Fabrication Processes In the plastics industry, each polymer option presents unique mechanical characteristics. As a result, it is possible to fabricate almost anything with every material, and most plastic manufacturing processes cover a vast array of product development requirements. In addition, these processes have been an integral part of the industry. They involve designing, producing, and assembling products using various techniques. Jamestown Plastics is recognized as one of the world’s most diversified custom plastics manufacturers. We are committed to providing a superior service level to our customers, which is best attained through experience and technical professionalism. We are also equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and highly experienced staff, enabling us to ensure consistency from the design phase through production. What Is Plastic Manufacturing? Plastic manufacturing is the method of designing, fabricating, and assembling a product composed of plastic materials or composites. Due to the variety of product or material options, numerous plastic part manufacturing techniques have been developed. Each method has pros and cons that make it suitable for fabricating specific designs and components. There are two major categories of plastic: thermosetting and thermoplastic. They are classified based on their ability to be molded into desired shapes under pressure and temperature conditions. Thermosetting Thermosetting plastics are polymers that become irreversibly tight and rigid upon heating. The polymer begins as a liquid or soft solid but quickly hardens due to heat-driven chemical reactions that increase polymer chain cross-linking. Some examples of thermosetting plastics are fiberglass, vulcanized rubber, epoxy resin, polyurethane, and polyester resin. Thermoplastic Thermoplastics can be softened by heating and processed via injection molding, thermoforming, and blow molding. This material hardens once cooled and retains its chemical properties despite repeated heating and cooling. Examples of thermoplastics include polyethylene and polypropylene. Benefits of Using Plastics in the Manufacturing Industry Plastic is an extremely versatile and adaptable material, making it applicable to virtually every industry. In addition, it offers the following advantages that make it superior to other materials in the manufacturing sector: Durability Plastic is more flexible and durable than most metals. Its high structural strength allows it to withstand extreme pressures and hostile environments. Cost-Effectiveness One of the main benefits of using plastic in manufacturing is the cost of producing and using the finished parts. It is generally less expensive than other materials and can easily be made in larger quantities. Productivity Manufacturing a plastic part takes a shorter time than metals such as steel, copper, and aluminum. Moreover, most metals require finishing processes in the final phase of manufacturing, whereas plastic parts may not. Energy Efficiency Plastic is a lightweight material that enables manufacturers to create lighter products and packaging. It also requires less energy to manufacture and transform into final components than metals, glass, and other materials. Moreover, plastic products, including sealants, insulations, and building materials, contribute to the energy efficiency of infrastructures. Thermoforming: An Efficient Plastic Fabrication Process Thermoforming is a cost-effective technique for producing intricate shapes from plastic. It transforms thermoplastics by applying heat, vacuum, and pressure to plastic sheet material. It utilizes a variety of machines to produce plastic products, including high-speed in-line thermoforming lines with robotic automation, light-gauge roll-fed machines, and larger sheet-fed machines for heavy-gauge products. This plastic manufacturing process enables the production of parts with lesser production costs and may not require additional machining or tooling. As a result, it is a preferred technique for manufacturing components, including clamshells, blisters, automotive appliques, reusable totes / trays, covers, and bumpers. Advantages of Thermoforming Thermoforming provides various advantages that make it a suitable plastic part manufacturing method. Among the benefits of thermoforming plastic are the following: Allows for adding details and creating custom designs Economical Excellent for manufacturing both small and large parts Has a short prototyping and development cycle Requires lower tooling investment compared to other processes Because of the mentioned advantages, thermoforming is frequently used across multiple industries, including electronics, agriculture, automotive, consumer products, packaging, medical, and marine. The Thermoforming Process The thermoforming process begins with heated plastic sheet, typically from 0.005” to 0.75” thick, formed into the required shape. This is accomplished using a vacuum, air pressure, or mechanical force. After the plastic has cooled, it is trimmed and any extra features are added with specialized equipment such as high-speed CNC machining, high-precision robotic trimming, and routers. For heavy-gauge applications, the part can typically be used for its intended application after all requested adjustments have been made. In most cases with light-gauge in-line thermoforming, the parts are finished and ready to use when they come off the machine. Thermoforming plastic sheet necessitates specialized equipment to heat and shape. This consists of an oven, a vacuum source, and a tool for forming. The oven is utilized to heat the thermoplastic until it is moldable enough to be formed by the vacuum over or into the forming tool. Thermoforming Techniques There are three distinct thermoforming techniques: vacuum forming, pressure forming, and twin sheet forming. Vacuum Forming: This technique involves heating plastic sheet across an open mold while using a vacuum to form a part. It uses a maximum pressure of 15 psi to help shape the plastic sheet. Pressure Forming: This method utilizes a vacuum and positive air pressure but creates three to four times greater force than vacuum forming. Additionally, it achieves intricate details and textures on the mold without incurring additional costs. Twin Sheet Forming: This process requires simultaneously heating and forming two plastic sheets with two molds, one at the top and one at the bottom. In addition, a fused joint is needed around the perimeter of the mold, and air pressure is injected between the plastic sheets. Considerations When Selecting a Plastic Thermoforming Manufacturer Each plastic thermoforming manufacturer provides a distinct set of capabilities; therefore, it is necessary to find one specializing in a specific project’s essential aspects. Consider the following factors when selecting a thermoforming partner: Material availability and expertise Equipment and manufacturing capabilities Design and engineering team competence Production capacity and additional services Standards and certifications Pricing Other Plastic Fabrication Processes Aside from thermoforming, several other processes are frequently used in manufacturing plastic products. Here are some examples: Injection Molding: This method is one of the most common plastic processing techniques and is considered a standard method in all plastic fabrication companies. It involves melting plastic pellets — thermosetting or thermoplastic — before injecting them into a mold cavity at pressure. Vacuum Casting: This is a cost-effective technique for custom plastic manufacturing. It involves producing small, functional plastic components or prototypes using a master model with a high-quality surface finish. Blow Molding: This popular plastic fabrication technique involves inflating heated plastic tubes to create hollow plastic components. It utilizes thermoplastic pellets that are melted into a hollow tube before the forming step, which may include extruding, injecting, or stretching. Why Choose Jamestown Plastics Jamestown Plastics is committed to customer satisfaction by adhering to ISO 9001-certified quality standards for testing, inspection, traceability, process control, and documentation. Our customers also value this dedication, as we consistently perform well on key success metrics, such as on-time delivery, product acceptance, and overall client satisfaction. We offer plastic thermoforming services to numerous industries, including the automotive, consumer goods, electronics, medical, and general industrial sectors! Further, our team also provides value-added services to expedite the market delivery of the products. Partner With Jamestown Plastics for High-Quality Plastic Manufacturing Services At Jamestown Plastics, we guarantee that the methods and expertise we provide to customers are of the highest quality and standard. We perform our design and tooling work in-house, giving us complete control over every aspect of a project and allowing us to reduce lead times as needed. Our experts can help you in producing plastic products of the highest quality! Contact us for more information about our products and services.