As we’ve noted in this space before, injection molding is one of several processes available in the plastic manufacturing industry. There are also a few others that encompass this broad field, one of which is known as thermoforming.

At EnviroTech Custom Injection Molders, we’re proud to not only offer numerous custom plastic injection molding services, from standard molds to bulk molding, slab stock molding and many others, but also expertise on how our services compare to others in the plastic realm. We never want our clients to use the wrong manufacturing methods for their needs, and we’re happy to advise you in this realm even if it means you don’t end up taking advantage of our services today. This two-part blog series will give you a basic comparison between injection molding and thermoforming, including the basics on the latter type and which you should be considering depending on your needs.

Thermoforming Basics

Thermoforming, to define it simply, is the process of forming a heated plastic sheet to the surface of a mold. This mold can be either male or female, and this process will be completed using a single-sided plastic fabrication process – this is one of the key differences from injection molding, where both sides of a plastic sheet may be controlled.

Thermoforming is known to provide low tooling costs, plus excellent speed on prototyping and product development. It has bright color and texture options, plus is highly versatile for basic adjustments. At the same time, thermoforming can only be done on thin-walled parts, which limits its application significantly, and it is also limited in the shape complexity it can create.

Types of Thermoforming

There are two primary types of thermoforming:

  • Vacuum forming: Using heat and pressure to pull plastic sheets in, then a vacuum to manipulate the setup into the final shape.
  • Pressure forming: Similar to vacuum forming, only with even greater pressure that allows for improved texture and detail.

General Comparison to Injection Molding

These two processes are two of the most popular and common across all plastic manufacturing. Thermoforming is commonly used for larger-scale designs and shorter production runs due to the limited tooling costs it comes with and the speed of projects; injection molding, on the other hand, is ideal for both larger projects and smaller ones with intricate parts. Especially for manufacturers who have detailed part needs but also need a large quantity of these parts produced, injection molding tends to be the top choice – but we’ll go over some more specifics in part two of our series here.

For more on the differences between injection molding and thermoforming, or to learn about any of our custom injection molding services, speak to the staff at EnviroTech Custom Injection Molders today.