Hmmmmm. Plastic Packaging vs. Plastic Enclosures. Two additional terms that you'll hear when discussing these topics in the world of thermoforming are thin gauge and thick gauge. It's important to understand the different applications of each when figuring out what type of thermoforming company to approach for your project. Most thermoforming companies do one type or the other because the equipment for each is completely different.
Plastic Packaging vs. Plastic Enclosures
Plastic Packaging - think - Thin-Gauge Thermoforming
Thickness and volume are the main differentiators between thin-gauge and thick-gauge thermoforming. When you think thin-gauge or "in-line" thermoforming, think packaging materials--from clam shell packaging to medical device packaging to food packaging.
Think of the packaging your razor blades or your child's favorite action figure or Barbie comes in. Think of the packaging that surgical masks come in. Think of the packaging tray that neatly holds your favorite chocolate chip cookies. Think high volume. For example, if your company produces 10 million razor blades a year, you'll need 10 million packages for the razor blades.
Thin-gauge thermoforming creates a part that's flexible--one that's meant to be bendable and compact. The materials used for thin-gauge thermoforming include clear PVC, PETG, and styrene. When it comes to many consumer products or small components that need to be packaged, thin-gauge thermoforming is the way to go. When packaging food and certain medical products, cleanliness and sterility are of the utmost importance (think of your plastic milk bottles, many of which are made from styrene, or think of the packaging that holds delicate surgical equipment, such as scalpels). A quality thin-gauge thermoforming company will have a "clean room" with proper ISO certification (usually ISO 9001:2000) where it manufactures packaging for food and medical-device applications.
Plastic Enclosures - think - Thick-Gauge Thermoforming
Thick-gauge--or "heavy-gauge"--thermoformers, such as ThermoFab, manufacture parts with a thickness in the range of .060 to .310. This thickness creates sturdy, rigid enclosures--perfect for enclosing things like the electronic equipment in super computers or medical devices. Materials used in thick-gauge thermoforming include flame-retardant ABS, polycarbonate, and a PC-ABS blend. Low volume orders are common, and a quality thick-gauge thermoforming company can do economical low-volume runs.
In addition, thick-gauge thermoformers must consider aesthetics--how the enclosure looks--since the enclosure is not going to be discarded like packaging but is actually part of the product itself. For customers concerned with branding, the look of these enclosures--from color to logo placement--is an important part of the thermoforming process.
Finding a company that can meet your volume requirements and deadlines is critical. At ThermoFab, our award-winning thermoforming process takes your 3D injection files to finished parts in just 4-6 weeks.
When you're bringing a product to market, make sure you do your research into thermoforming companies early so that you can choose the right company to partner with. Email us for a copy of our white paper or download it "3 Reasons Why the Best Ideas Never Make it to Market" to learn more.
Case in Point: Autometrix X and Y Cover Sets
At ThermoFab, we completed the delivery of the Autometrix X and Y Axis Cover sets faster and with higher quality than any competitors' could offer. This helped get the cover sets to the IFAI 2010 Show last month for Show and sell!
Using a combined strategy of management and manufacturing updates implemented over a decade ago, we increased production turnaround by 50%. This was the tipping point for Autometrix.
When Jonathan Palmer, Mechanical Engineer and Project Manager received the first set of covers from ThermoFab he emailed us immediately and said: "I've got the best fitting covers I've ever had on a machine out there. ThermoFab - thank you so much for the work on your end to make sure it's right - I didn't get out a drill one single time to oversize a hole or anything like that - which is what I was used used to doing with first run (or 2nd or 3rd!) covers using other manufacturers! Thank you again for all of your efforts!"
At ThermoFab, our turnaround time, service and quality are highly valued by our clients. It's extremely exciting to see how this business process makes a difference for our customers!