Thermoform Heat Sealing Machinery

Thermoform Heat Sealing Machinery

Thermoforming involves the heating of a plastic sheet to a temperature at which it becomes pliable. This enables the plastic to be formed into a particular shape for its purpose, after which the excess plastic is trimmed or removed and can be reused for further batches.

Thermoform heat sealing is commonly used in the manufacture of disposable packaging, such as containers, disposable cups, lids, trays and clamshells. However, its most widespread use is in the pharmaceutical industry where thermoform heat sealing is used to create blister packaging for pills and other medication. In these instances, thin-gauge thermoforming is used,

Thermoforming machinery utilising the thick-gauge thermoforming method can be used for more heavy weight products, such as vehicle doors, plastic pallets, and interior lining for refrigerators.

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Thermoforming, using heat sealing machinery, is popular as it enables the creation of several finished parts from the same material. Thick-gauge thermoforming is great when large parts need to be produced, and both thick-gauge and thin-gauge thermoforming save time and money on the production line. 

Thermoforming machinery and moulding also allows designers to create prototype products and detect any potential fitting or design faults before starting full scale production.

The ability to reuse excess plastic reduces costs and material requirements, while material scientists continue to seek new types of thermo-formable plastics with increased levels of efficiency and environmental-friendliness. Considering the vast range of plastics that are amenable to thermoforming, increasing the sustainability levels of thermoformed plastics may not be too far off. 

At present, heat sealing machinery can action thermoforming using the following materials:

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
  • Acrylic (Polymethyl Methacrylate, Plexiglass or PMMA)
  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
  • HIPS (High-Impact Polystyrene) 
  • HMPWE (High Molecular Weight Polyethylene)
  • KYDEX (PPMA/PVC blend)
  • PC (Polycarbonate)
  • Pennite (Glass-filled nylon)
  • PEI (Polyetherimide Ultem)
  • PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) 
  • PP (Polypropylene)
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  • Royalite 
  • RPET (Reprocessed Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • TPO (Thermoplastic PolyOlefin)
  • Vinyl


Types of Thermoforming

Pressure Forming

Pressure forming allows for the creation of thicker sheets and thus for the addition of texture, detail (such as text or logo), undercoats and sharp corners where desired. The approach is very useful for products which are highly stylised. Pressure forming works by creating a vacuum underneath the sheet, and air pressure (50-100psi) applied to the back of the sheet to force the plastic onto the mould.

Mechanical Forming

The thermoforming machine forces the thermoplastic sheet onto the mould mechanically through direct contact. This usually involves the use of a core plug to push the plastic sheet into the mould cavity, which forces it into the required shape.

Vacuum Forming

A comparatively low-cost tooling process, vacuum forming offers several processing advantages. As vacuum forming uses low pressures, inexpensive materials can be used and and mould fabrication time is short. It is, therefore, an economical method for the creation of low and medium quantity runs and for prototyping purposes. Vacuum forming is ideal for simple products which need to be lightweight and quickly produced.

Plastic Injection Moulding

Plastic injection moulding produces product of a comparable quality to thermoforming. However, thermoform tooling can be up to 90% cheaper than the tooling necessary for an injection-moulded part. This is partly because injection moulding moulds require both a cavity and a core part, whilst thermoforming moulds are single-sided. This also means it is much quicker to create thermoformed parts, making it faster to move to formal production phase (and thus to get the product to market). That said, plastic injection moulding is well-known as the most commonly used, and among the most efficient methods of processing available.


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Access a list of PPMA member companies who supply a comprehensive range of Thermoforming Machines:

Common Terminology

  • Thermo-formable ink technology
  • In-mould decoration
  • Clamping frame
  • Twin heater machine
  • Aluminium reflector plate
  • Quartz heater
  • Pyrometer
  • Photo-electric beam
  • Sheet level (autolevel)
  • Pre-stretch (bubble)
  • Plug assist
  • Vacuum forming
  • Vacuum pump
  • Crystalising polymer
  • Draw ratio
  • Mechanical trim press (rollerpress)
  • Pressure forming
  • Mechanical forming
  • Roll feed machine
  • Sheet feed machine
  • Sheet extrusion
  • Skeletal
  • Parts stacker
  • Forming machine
  • Mandrill
  • Chopping machine
  • Co-extrusion
  • Mono-material sheet
  • Multi-layer sheet
  • Multi-head extruder
  • Extrusion die
  • Post-moulding printing
  • Mould cavity