All about thermoforming and the Vaquform thermoforming machine
Thermoforming is an ubiquitous manufacturing technique widespread in the industrial sector. It is used across a wide variety of applications and is found in many everyday objects. This manufacturing process has the advantages of being easy to set up and inexpensive. Thermoformers can also be used to create unique pieces, tailor-made objects and series. Although it is very common, this manufacturing technique is often unknown to the general public.
How does a Vaquform thermoformer work?
Thermoforming consists of using a flexible material (in the case of our Vaquform thermoformer, plastic sheets) and heating them up until they are softened. Since plastic is a ductile material, it exhibits the ability to deform without breaking. We then take advantage of the temporary ductility of the material to cover a model and thus make an imprint (mold). A strong suction completely removes the air between the model and the material, the plastic form is thus sucked and perfectly matches the shape of the template. Once the material cools down, it retains the shape of the model. It is possible to use the result of thermoforming as it is (yoghurt pots, lids, cups, packaging, blisters, etc.) or to use it as a mold and fill it with various materials. The possibilities are only limited to the imagination of the user who can fill the mold with the material of his choice (concrete, cement, chocolate, plaster, silicone, resin, ice cream, chocolate, jesmonite ...).
The suction system: the key to good thermoforming
To achieve perfect and easily repeatable results, it is important to have strong suction. Unlike the Vaquform, most desktop thermoformers do not have a suction unit and must be connected to a vacuum cleaner. To overcome this problem, Vaquform has developed a new vacuum technology that guarantees high-performance thermoforming. The Vaquform thermoforming machine incorporates a two-stage hybrid suction unit imitating the operation of industrial vacuum pumps (vacuum thermoforming):
The first stage removes in a matter of seconds 90% of the air present under the plastic sheet at a suction of -3.6 PSI.
The second stage then takes over to remove the remaining air with an impressive -12.6 PSI suction.
In addition to superior power and suction qualities, this technology offers the advantage uncluttering the office of any unnecessary external vacuum cleaner. Beyond that, the suction integrated into the Vaquform guarantees perfect results where household vacuum cleaners often do not have the necessary power to achieve quality thermoforming.
What can you make with a thermoformer?
The thermoformer can be used with many basic models and thus enables the manufacture of objects and parts suitable for a variety of uses.
The first step in thermoforming is to choose a basic model (jig). You can model it yourself and 3D print it, or choose an object to 3D print through an online 3D file library like Thingiverse. It is also possible to thermoform any existing object or to sculpt an artisanal shape (with wood, clay or even potatoes !). This technique is particularly used to duplicate objects and to create packaging (protective shells, packaging, blisters, etc.).
Exemple de thermoformage : une coque de protection pour une voiture de modélisme
Create molds, casts, impressions, objects, ...
Once the model template has been chosen (3D print, sculpted object, pre-existing object), you're ready to thermoform!
The Vaquform thermoformer is intuitive and secure. Its ease of use guarantees fast and precise results.
There are two types of molds:
The plastic sheet is deployed in a hollow mold. The negative mold is generally the most used when it comes to creating a molding for the purpose of reproducing an object. The user can thus fill the molding with the material of his choice and obtain a replica of the model.
The mold rests on the model to match its shape. The positive mold is primarily used to create blisters, packaging or even protective shells.
The different stages of thermoforming with Vaquform:
The user is guided through the machine embeded screen to select a suitable temperature for his material, the thickness of the sheet as well as the strength of the model.
Once the settings have been chosen, the machine will heat up. The user positions the plastic sheet in the mobile part of the thermoformer and places it at the top of the guide.
When the machine is hot, the suction starts. The user needs to drop the material all the way down to create the desired shape. The last thing to do is to wait a few seconds for the material to cool down.
The thermoforming is finished, the user can now separate the model from the mold.
The operator can then reuse the same template and repeat the operation over and over again. Molding with Vaquform makes it possible to create small series of products very quickly, with industrial quality results, without the hassles of going through an external service provider.
Pro tip : to separate without hassle the molding from the model, you can lightly blow air between the two with an air compressor.
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