Troubleshooting the Thermoforming Process

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The thermoforming process of heating up a sheet and stretching it over a mold to make a finished part is easy to understand and easy to customize; however, there are many specific variables that can impact the final thermoplastic product. Material characteristics, heating consistency, pressure levels, and moisture can all tweak the results of the process in unexpected ways. Because of these variables, troubleshooting the thermoforming process can be tricky. Industrial Custom Products’ thermoplastic experts recommend watching for the following signs of some common thermoforming hiccups in order to resolve your production woes.


Your heat levels may be poorly suited to your materials if…you are getting results that are discolored, scorched, wrinkled, distorted, or incomplete. Excessively high heats can lead to discoloration, scorching, or wrinkling. Temperatures that are too low can leave you with distortions, white corners, or incomplete formations. Heating a material too quickly is also a common error during the thermoforming process. Centering your troubleshooting process around heat is rarely a poor starting point.


Your moisture levels may be too high if…your thermoplastic products are coming out with bubbles and blisters. Too much moisture can result in bubbling and blistering, in part, because of how the moisture evaporates with no way to escape. Working with high-moisture thermoplastics may require you to increase the soak time and heat materials from both sides, but Polycarbonate takes it one step further.  Polycarbonate or PC requires an additional drying process in an oven to prevent blistering and bubbling as it is hygroscopic in nature.  This means that the material naturally attracts and holds water molecules from the surrounding environment.


Your vacuuming may be too weak or slow if…your final product is lacking in detail. Without appropriately powerful and speedy vacuuming, you may end up with insufficient detailing or wrinkles and webs. If your high-detail products are coming out with low detail outputs, the vacuuming may be to blame. Checking for leaks, increasing the number of vacuum holes, or adjusting the vacuum hole sizes can all lead to better suction.


If you are not sure where to begin your troubleshooting, make a short list of the abnormalities you’re finding and determine whether they’re consistent from part to part. The thermoforming process is only as temperamental as its components.


For expert assistance with your thermoformed part, contact Industrial Custom Products. Our engineers and materials experts are well-equipped to troubleshoot problem parts and processes. Call us today at (612) 781-2255 and speak with an engineer, or send us the details directly online. You will receive a prompt response.