Just about everything we buy, from batteries to cookies to aspirin, is in some sort of secure packaging and most are created out of plastics. While you might not have given this a second thought before, the creation of packaging is a huge industry and important to virtually all manufacturers. Thermoforming is the process by which many types of packaging are created, and here are some facts about it.
A basic explanation of the process of thermoforming would begin with a plastic sheet. This sheet will be heated up to a level where it can be shaped into a mold. Once it is in the mold, the excess plastic is trimmed off carefully and then the plastic is cooled. Sometimes thin-gauge plastic sheets are used and sometimes thick-gauge plastic will used, depending on the type of product or packaging that is being produced.
When we are talking about thin gauge thermoforming, this indicates that the sheet of plastic is about 0.5 mm thick. This probably seems very thin, but it is used for millions of different packaging types, from blister packs to clamshell packs to trays and other packages. Thin gauge molds can create disposable items such as drinking cups and plastic plates or even those disposable storage containers we use to store leftovers. When you buy everything from batteries to toy cars, these also use thin gauge plastic in the thermoforming process. Medium-gauge is about 1.5 mm to about 3 mm and is less common. These products are typically not the kind you simply throw away, but rather have some degree of permanence.
On the other hand, the heavy gauge type of thermoforming is used from products that you would never just toss into a trash can. This includes your computer tower shell, printers, monitor exteriors and other electronic items. When you go to the doctor for any kind of medical tests, the outside of most of the machines are made using heavy gauge plastic. Some vehicle and airplane parts also are created using heavy gauge plastics. Just as with thin gauge thermoforming, heavy gauge thermoforming begins with a sheet of plastic. It is then either formed using heat or with vacuum forming.
In most cases, a thermoforming company will produce products and packaging that is either created through thin-gauge thermoforming or thick-gauge. Some companies will do both thick or thin, but this is a bit more uncommon. These companies not only produce plastic packaging of all types, but also design them as well. Keep in mind, thermoforming companies produce more than just packaging, they create all sorts of plastic products as well as thermoform foam products.
Many people are concerned with the sustainability of plastics, but many thermoforming companies are worried about environmental impact as well and have taken steps to make their plastics as sustainable as possible. This means that they create items using post-consumer materials and also use different levels of recyclable materials in production.