FDM thermoforming tooling: what is it?

Thermoforming is a process by which plastics are recycled. It involves heating the plastic to a temperature that makes it easy to shape and put into molds, for use in designing products. You can probably interact with many thermoformed products on a daily basis, whether in your refrigerator, your automobile or your grocery store. But when a product is thermoformed, what happens? What is FDM thermoforming tooling?

What is thermoforming ?

 Thermoforming is a traditional plastic forming technique where heat is used to reduce a plastic sheet to its point of bending or sagging. The heat source is then removed, after which the plastic sheet will be placed on a molding. Then, a void is drawn on the molding and the sheet will adopt its surface. Thermoformed products are very common in industries including aircraft, automotive, recreational / outdoor and medical equipment. The specific products most often distinguished are packaging, bathtubs, wind deflectors, case components and trays. Designing thermoforming tools using traditional processes is a long and tiring process.

Manufacturing time of thermoforming products

In general, the fabrication of thermoforming tools, especially if they are outsourced, can take six to fourteen weeks, depending on the capacity of the CNC and the complexity of the tool. This rather long wait is not attractive, however, when you need FDM thermoforming tooling for a short multiplication cycle or tool archetype. Often the tooling for a fairly short cycle, prototyping as well as the transition is inexpensive thermoforming tools. These tools have to be further shaped, before being slaughtered after certain cycles. This then pushes thermoforming companies to find alternatives.

What are the specificities of FDM thermoforming tools

FDM thermoforming tooling can be designed in hours or, depending on its size, in days. Compared to a conventional tool made of aluminum or steel, it has a reduced weight. This reduction in weight is likely to improve the efficiency of the tool due to its ease of use, its switchability as well as other handling actions. Since the 3D stamped pieces are essentially permeable, it will no longer be necessary to introduce air, immediately adding vacuum channels. With still a second treatment and finishing work, the tool can be created to selectively adopt a vacuum. This is what will allow more precise molding.

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