For optically clear plastic parts, drape-forming is a superior solution. Here’s how it works, and why you should consider this method for your next project.
How Drape-Forming Works
Drape forming is a technique that uses a single positive mold or a clamshell mold on which a heated sheet of plastic is placed. After thermal processing softens that sheet, it sags and conforms to the shape of the mold under its own weight or by slight pressure applied by an operator or mating part of the mold.
Drape-forming is possible thanks to a combination of heat and a mold over which the thermoplastics are “draped.” Drape forming is an excellent way to manufacture products that need to maintain consistent thickness, are optically clear, or achieve large-scale shapes and curves while keeping costs low.
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The Benefits of Drape-Forming
1. Better Versatility
Acrylics and polycarbonate plastics are great thermoplastic options thanks to their versatility, specifically in hard-to-achieve areas such as clarity and color. They live up to their moniker by being some of the few plastic materials that can be used as a stand-in for glass with the added benefits of being lighter, and in many cases, much sturdier.
And since acrylics & polycarbonates also fall into the thermoplastic category, they can be heated and molded into many different types of shapes, including in some cases, drape formed.
2. Ideal for Large Applications
Though drape-forming is possible for many different applications, they’re particularly impressive when done with large panels.
This method allows for rapid production of your parts – for example, creating a curved, clear display window for your business or a thick plexiglass shield for your design.
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Along with the flexibility that drape-forming provides, it also saves money, especially for projects of low volume. The tooling process involved in drape forming is much simpler than tooling for typical thermoforming/ vacuum forming applications.
A single panel being heated and laid over a drape-forming mold can be a quick and easy way to produce high-quality consistent components without breaking your budget.
Interested in drape-forming? For all your plastic material molding needs, the materials experts at Industrial Custom Products are here to help you. Learn how the advantages of drape-forming can work for your project. Contact us or call us at (612) 781-2255 today!
Industrial Custom Products is a one-stop-shop for custom manufacturing and plastic fabrication, including: prototyping and product development, die cutting and dieless knife cutting, thermoforming and vacuum forming, large part thermoforming, CNC plastic routing, fabrication and assembly and drape forming.