Many plastic molding and injection mold making companies use vacuum forming mold making as an alternative to injection molding or other applications in the mold making process. With the right application, you can produce high quality and very competitively priced parts.
From prototypes to short run to high volume products, there are many applications that are ideal for vacuum forming. Some typical products include shrouds, automotive panels such as dashboards, aerospace panels, marine trim, appliance faceplates, etc.
Because these molds tend to be somewhat simpler to manufacture, they offer a starting point for an entry into the competitive world of the plastic molding process.
Vacuum Forming Molds Are Inexpensive
Typically the vacuum forming mold is simple and relatively inexpensive to manufacture. This is one of the advantages over other types of molding. The special equipment required is also rather basic and inexpensive, which can be very appealing, especially for low volume production.
The short lead time lends itself to use in prototype molding. Most of these molds are made of aluminum, such as QC-7, which enables the mold maker to quickly produce highly detailed molding surfaces. The design is also not complex and often the mechanical aspects are left to the discretion of the mold maker.
Vacuum forming molds can be quite flexible
There is usually no need to heat treat the mold because the molding pressures are so low. Heat is applied to the plastic sheet and it is lowered over the mold. The vacuum sucks the air out of the molding area and helps to seal the shut-offs.
There are so many variations on this process that it is difficult to describe in detail. Some parts are molded over a female cavity, some over male cores, and some over both. In most cases trimming is required to produce a clean edge in the perimeter.
Some molds are made of composites, epoxy, rubber, plastic, wood, aluminum and pre-hardened tool steel, such as P-20.
Many parts also have inserts placed in the mold, which is very similar to typical insert molding. Secondary operations can be used to decorate, add details, trim, paint, texture and so on.
All in all, vacuum forming molds play an important role in manufacturing and deserve consideration as a viable alternative to plastic injection molding.
Advantages of vacuum forming molding
- Good cost/quality ratio
- Ease of manufacture
- Short lead time
- Low initial project cost
- Freedom of design