Thermoforming: What is The Future?

Blog, Monday, January 23, 2023

Future-Proofing with Thermoforming Technology

Plastic manufacturing and the packaging industry have seen their ups and downs in the past decade, causing issues for customers looking for high-quality plastic parts and products. To lower costs, many companies decided to move their manufacturing projects overseas. Unfortunately, with the lower cost per piece have come several problems, such as issues with quality control, shipping delays, problems meeting demand, and longer lead times.

With the recent global pandemic, these issues have compounded, causing businesses to search for other solutions to their plastic manufacturing needs that allow them to meet consumer needs for both quality and delivery times.

CBM Plastics knows the challenges and pains that customers face when it comes to plastics manufacturing and has made it their mission to provide quality plastic thermoformed products to their customers with lead times that fit their customer’s needs.

They are located in the U.S., which helps to eliminate the headache of customs processing and clearance, shipping delays, and lost shipments. Their convenient location, along with their experienced staff, also allows their customers greater quality control over their plastics productions.

Find out more about how thermoforming may be affected in the future, or contact CBM Plastics today to get your project started.

What is thermoforming?

Plastic thermoforming is commonly used in plastic packaging and the production of large plastic products. The process involves heating plastic sheets or thermoplastic material and stretching it over a 3-dimensional mold, where it will harden and form into the desired plastic product or part. Thermoforming is one of the top choices when creating plastic trays and packaging due to its ability to utilize thin layers of plastic. Tooling costs vary depending on the size and shape of the mold, but aside from tooling costs, thermoforming is considered one of the more cost-effective processes.

The future of thermoforming

While plastics manufacturing is a competitive landscape, thermoforming continues to gain traction and is expected to have a high demand and steady growth rate in the future. As the end use for various plastic parts and products continues to change, so does the plastic manufacturing process. It is through this adaptation to market and customer need that thermoforming is expected to thrive in the future.

In fact, those performing market research expect to see up to a 60 Billion USD growth of thermoformed plastics within the next decade. Both vacuum forming and pressure forming processes are expected to increase as the market size in the healthcare, food packaging, automotive, and electrical & electronics industries continue to grow.

While the recent pandemic caused an increase in individual food packaging to reduce possible contamination, this need is expected to continue into the future as thermoformed polymers are required for the growing food delivery and ready-to-eat food industry, which has seen a significant upward trend in recent years.

The antibacterial properties of thermoformed plastics have also raised its demand as healthcare packaging has increased as well, increasing the entire global thermoformed plastics market.

The rise in construction and remodeling has also led to an increase in thermoforming. It is a trend that is expected to continue as the construction industry is still seeing unprecedented growth. The ability to make thermoformed plastic parts and products that are heat resistant and durable makes them popular for manufacturing building materials and components.

Market research reports have also shown that the negative impact on the thermoforming market caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to shutdowns in North America, South Africa, Latin America, Europe, Canada, the Middle East, India, Japan, China, and other parts of the Asia-pacific area is reversing itself. Now the automotive, construction, and electronics industries are seeing demand higher than ever, leading to an increase in all forms of plastic manufacturing.

What impact will new technology have on these companies?

The increasing demand and market growth of plastic products have caused plastic manufacturers to seek out technological advances to help improve the efficiency of the production process as well as the quality.

New technologies in thermoforming machinery have allowed for greater temperature control, which will enable manufacturers to control the thickness of the film better. This not only allows for better quality control but also allows manufacturers to produce the same products with thinner polymers.

Other technologies have been developed that eliminate the side hole evaluation and need for punched holes, which reduces waste and dust production.

While still currently under development, plastic thermoforming machine companies are looking for ways to find greener alternatives to standard thermoforming machinery, which will lower waste and also the overall energy use of the machine.

How will changes in plastic use affect the process?

One of the most significant advancements affecting the thermoforming industry now and likely into the future is the changes in raw materials used in the process as the push for greener alternatives continues.

One of the greatest pushes is to use fewer plastics to produce parts and products. This means that some of the highest consumed parts, such as food-grade caps and lids, will be made thinner with the goal of using 50% less plastic in their production.

Injection-molded lids and caps can be extremely heavy and require more plastic to produce, so companies may begin using thermoformed polypropylene lids for food container covers, which requires much less plastic.

The aircraft industry has also seen an increased demand for thermoformed parts and products. The thermoformed process is used to create the structured parts inside the wings and the stabilizer in aircrafts. This is often done using commodity resins that contain glass fibers or carbon and is already commonly used in Europe.

Companies and manufacturers are also focusing on the recyclability and environmental impact of the plastics used in thermoforming. Since plastics can be used in a wide range of products and applications, the focus has been on the environmental impact on the ecosystems both on land and in the sea, which is where used plastics commonly end up.

This has led to the development of more recyclable plastics and using processes that waste fewer plastics during production. Some companies have even focused on how they can upcycle plastics by reusing the same plastics to produce new products instead of them ending up in a landfill.

Other plastic companies are also focusing their production on creating plastics that are biodegradable so that they will have a less negative impact on the environment and eventually break down. One of the latest innovations is biomaterial, which is compostable and created using renewable resources. This material can easily be used for thermoplastic manufacturing, such as shopping bags, bottles, and agricultural film.

Why this method is becoming a popular plastic production option?

Thermoforming has always been an excellent option for large plastic parts or product production but has seen an even greater demand in recent years as plastic packaging demand has increased. Thermoforming is the go-to option for creating various types of packaging, from trays to lids, to bags, to containers. The process often uses antibacterial polymers that are food and medical-grade. This makes it the best option for food packaging and packaging of medical products and supplies.

The pandemic fundamentally changed how many people live. The increase in consumption and ordering of packaged food products, as well as the demand for vaccines, prescriptions, and test trays and packages, has also increased the need for thermoformed products.

How are thermoforming companies changing?

Not only are technologies and raw materials changing in the world of thermoforming manufacturing, but market reports show that thermoforming companies are changing as well. The need to adapt to changes in the marketplace as well as changing customer demand has led many companies to reconsider their current processes and operations. The market overview is promising for plastic manufacturing companies that are willing to adapt to these changes.

One of the main changes in thermoforming companies is a renewed interest in sustainability. With increasing automation technology and machines that can provide greater quality control, plastics manufacturing can create runs more efficiently and produce less overall waste.

Other ways in which companies are seeking to lessen their environmental footprint is by investing in machinery and equipment that reduces overall energy use, such as energy-efficient lighting. They are also investing in plastics that are compostable, biodegradable, or made with fewer nonrenewal resources.

Prototyping using 3D printing has enabled thermoforming companies to have a better design starting point for their production runs and lessen the time from conception to production. This will help them meet the demands of customers who require quicker production and increased quality control which has been a problem with overseas manufacturing in the past.

Achieve your thermoforming packaging goals with CBM Plastics

Thermoforming is a plastic manufacturing process that is expected to continue to be in demand well into the future. CBM Plastics has decades of experience in thermoforming plastic production and stays up-to-date with the latest technology and plastics innovations to provide you with a quality product that meets your and your customer’s needs. Find out how CBM Plastics can help make your next thermoforming project a success. Contact us today to get started.