Thermoforming FAQs

Blog, Monday, August 1, 2022

Thermoforming or Vacuum Forming FAQs

If you have a plastic project with a specific texture, detailing, or larger size, thermoforming may be the best plastic manufacturing process for your job. Whether you are looking for a plastic thermoforming manufacturer for the first time or have had experience with one in the past, you may be concerned about some of the common problems facing the manufacturing industry, such as lead times, shipping costs, and quality issues. Unfortunately, with many offshore manufacturing companies, quality control can be difficult. You can also run into longer lead times and even longer shipping times, throwing off your schedule and leading to delivery delays for your customers.

Why not solve your plastic molding manufacturing concerns by choosing a US-located plastics thermoforming company that prides itself on quality, timely delivery, and superb customer service through every step of the process?

CBM Plastics, Inc. has more than 25 years of experience in plastic manufacturing processes. We have the experience, the equipment, and the attention to detail to provide you with the high-quality plastic parts or products you are looking for. Our convenient Midwestern location provides better shipping and delivery control, helping you get your job when needed.

Find out more about how CBM Plastics can help you with your plastics projects. Contact us today to find out if thermoforming is the right choice for your project.

What is the thermoforming or vacuum forming process?

Thermoforming is a manufacturing process where thermoplastic sheets are softened and stretched over a mold. The heated plastic is then manipulated to achieve the desired shape. Once manipulated, it will be cooled, and the final product will be formed.

What is an example of thermoforming?

Thermoforming is used in a variety of industries for various applications. Modern refrigerator and freezer door liners are created using the thermoforming process as they can help provide an exact fit and proper seal.

What is made using thermoforming or vacuum forming?

Thermoformed plastic works for parts and applications in construction, agriculture, outdoor equipment, janitorial, automotive, and other industries. It is also widely used to make a wide range of packing materials and materials used in transportation. Some of the types of products that can be made using this process include:

  • Trays for pick and pack fulfillment
  • Materials and handling covers and trays
  • Clamshell packaging for retail
  • Packaging blisters
  • Packaging for medical supplies
  • POP marketing displays
  • Inserts for packaging

What is vacuum forming?

Vacuum forming uses a thermoforming machine that utilizes heat and pressure to pull the plastic sheets into the desired configuration. The sheet lays over the mold, and the vacuum will help to create the final shape.

What is the material used for thermoforming?

There are a variety of thermoplastic materials that you can choose from for thermoforming. Selecting the right option involves considering how the final product needs to function and look.

  • HDPE: High-density polyethylene is chemical resistant, durable, and stands up well in cold temperatures.
  • HMWPE: High molecular weight polyethylene is chemical and puncture resistant. It also has a high impact strength.
  • HIPS: High-impact polystyrene is cost-effective, forms easily, and is available in many colors.
  • PET: Polyethylene terephthalate is commonly used for food packaging and is a low-cost option.
  • PETG: Polyethylene terephthalate glycol has excellent clarity and high impact strength. This makes it perfect for medical-grade products.
  • PP: Polypropylene is known for its chemical resistance, rigidity, and impact strength.
  • PC: Polycarbonate is a transparent material resistant to high temperatures and durable.
  • PVC: Polyvinyl chloride is rigid, strong, and flame-retardant.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic is a clear material that resists abrasions, can be easily formed, and is available in a wide array of colors.
  • ABS: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a commonly used material in thermoforming that is stiff and available in various textures.
  • TPO: Thermoplastic polyolefin is ideal for large parts and outdoor products and uses as it has superior impact properties. It has a high-gloss finish which makes it stand up against harsher weather.


Many other plastic options work in forming machines. Contact us today to help find the best material for your plastic production project.

What are the benefits of thermoforming?

For many reasons, thermoforming can be ideal for manufacturing your finished parts. With thermoforming:

  • You can get multiple finished parts from the same material.
  • You will be able to detect fit and design issues before the run is underway.
  • You will be able to better produce larger, intricate parts.
  • You will enjoy a more efficient and cost-effective process.
  • You can expect a shorter lead time than some other manufacturing options.
  • You can add details to your design as needed.
  • You will enjoy great freedom during the design process.

What does thermoforming cost?

The cost for each thermoforming project will depend on several factors. Costs that need to be considered include:

  • Design
  • Materials
  • Tooling
  • Labor
  • Length of run


Depending on the complexity, tooling costs can run anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, but most will fall between $4,000 to $7,000. The material costs can also range widely, especially between heavy gauge and thin-gauge plastics. All-in-all you can expect the average project to run between $7,000 – $30,000.

What is the lead time for thermoforming?

While the lead time for thermoforming will depend on the run’s length, the tooling’s complexity, and how long it takes to finalize the design, most projects have an average lead time of 45 to 60 days after the design has been validated.

What can happen to the material during the thermoforming process?

The thermoforming process deforms the thermoplastic material by heating it to a high temperature. The main concern during this process is ensuring that the plastic material is heated evenly throughout to mold and create the desired formed part properly. Part of the thermoforming process involves determining the precise heat to reach the desired thickness. If the heating is uneven throughout the sheet of plastic, it can lead to thinning in various areas, weakening the final product. Sometimes changing the polymer material, the part or product design, and the various processing conditions may be necessary to ensure even thickness distribution and proper molding.

Can you do custom colors in thermoforming?

At CBM Plastics, inc, custom work is our specialty. We can work with you to find the perfect design for your product, including creating a custom color. While many types of polymers have different color options, we can also work with you to create the color and look you want for your plastic project.

Which process should I use for my plastic part production needs?

There are a few options to help you get high-quality plastic parts developed. The process you choose will be based on several factors, from the size of the product to design to the volume you decide to run.

Thermoforming is ideal when looking for a more detailed design and texture for your products. Since the plastic molds around a shape, the process is also suitable for larger parts.

If you have a plastic product with a consistent profile, then profile extrusion will likely be your most cost-effective option. Since the molten plastic is pushed through more simple dies, you likely will have lower overall tooling costs to get started.

With injection molding, tooling cost is the highest as a mold will need to be created to hold and form the melted plastic. Yet, once the tooling is done, the cost per piece will be lower than many other options.

Do you do assembly?

At CBM, we help you from start to finish, including assisting with the final assembly of your product.

Choose CBM Plastics, Inc for your thermoforming project

Whether you are part of product development or the manufacturing process and are looking for a reliable company to assist with your thermoforming plastic project. CBM is here to help. From design to manufacturing to assembly, we can do it all and ensure you get the high-quality finished piece you need. Contact us today to get a project quote.