Thermoforming Glossary: Terms You Should Know

July 2008

It's summer time! We don't know about you, but many of us here at ThermoFab were encouraged by our parents to "continue our education" by reading books during July and August. So we thought we'd take some of Mom and Dad's advice on summertime education and give you a brush-up on common terms you're likely to encounter in our industry.

Thermoforming Glossary

thermoformed productPlastic Enclosures
A custom plastic exterior cover that is manufactured by thermoforming, pressure forming, vacuum forming, or injection molding. The plastic enclosure surrounds and covers electronic or electromechanical devices used in the medical, industrial, or computer industries.

Method of manufacturing plastic parts by preheating a flat sheet of plastic and bringing it into contact with a mold whose shape it takes. Learn more about custom thermoforming.

Vacuum Forming
Automatic draping of a heat-softened plastic sheet over a female or male mold. Learn more about vacuum forming.

Pressure Forming
Thermoforming technique that involves forcing a heat- softened plastic sheet against a mold, usually female, by introducing compressed air to the backside of the heated sheet. Learn more about pressure forming.

Injection Molding
Process that involves heating plastic pellets or granules until a melt is obtained. The melt is then delivered to a split-die mold where it is allowed to cool into the desired shape. The mold is then opened and the part is ejected, at which time the cycle is repeated. Read about injection molding versus thermoforming.

A production planning technique that helps manufacturers create production schedules that are protected from the adverse effects of "Murphy's Law" events. Learn more about DBR and lean manufacturing.

Secondary Operations
Addition of inserts, mesh, and other features to custom plastic enclosures. At ThermoFab, our revolutionary process puts more detail in the original part reducing the requirement for secondary operations.

See thermoforming in action. Schedule a tour of ThermoFab today, and we'll discuss your project's needs.

ThermoFab in Action: Customer Stories

Mako's robotic arm Challenge: Barriers to Medical Prototype Production
Breakthroughs in medical devices require sound prototypes. The last thing stopping an innovative medical device company on the brink of producing a truly revolutionary product should be time constraints.

This was an important concern facing Florida-based Mako Surgical when developing its second-generation Tactile Guidance System (TGS), an advanced robotic-arm solution for minimally invasive orthopedic knee procedures, known as MAKOplasty�.

Because of the different parts the Mako robot requires and because of the small quantities needed during this pre-production stage (only 100 over the course of a year), injection molding was not an option due to the cost of tooling.

Solution:ThermoFab's In-House Engineering, Tooling, & Painting Cut Down on Time to Market
ThermoFab helped Mako with the manufacturing of the second-generation robot by enhancing the design to make it a sleeker and more service-friendly model. ThermoFab manufactured all of the coverings based on Mako's design and ensured that the fits and materials would work well in production. ThermoFab's manufacturing process worked well with Mako's vision for its product. Timing was a critical factor. Mako needed 16 different parts that ThermoFab was able to turn around in about 12 weeks--other shops would have required 12 weeks per part.

Results: A Production Partnership Worth Duplicating
A breakthrough medical product--delivered on time and on budget--that can help doctors help patients walk pain-free. What more could you ask for?

Read the full case study on Mako Surgical, plus other customer stories.

ThermoFab is committed to being the leader in custom plastic enclosures. Contact us today to learn how we can take you from files to finished product in just 4-6 weeks!


Tom King, Jr., President

phone: 888-494-9777