Yes, vacuum forming is a relatively simple process, which can even be done at home with a plastic sheet, a heat gun and a vacuum cleaner. However, when designed well and when manufactured using suitable machines, custom vacuum formed products can be much more advanced. Vacuum formings can be made with a range of useful and detailed features - here's our guide to some often overlooked possibilities. (If you need a reminder, here's a quick overview of the vacuum forming process.)
1. Nesting & stacking trays
Vacuum forming is ideal for the manufacture of pocketed component storage & transportation trays. Such trays can become much more useful if the pockets are designed to nest inside each other, which saves space and provides a close-fitting lid for each pocket at the same time.
Trays can also be designed to stack so that the trays sit securely on top of each other, protecting the components inside from the weight of the loaded trays placed on top.
2. Finger recesses, grip features & slots
To ensure that components are secure inside a tray, the tray can be designed with very tight fitting pockets and grips to keep a part in place. The pockets should then also be designed with finger recesses, to make it easy to get the contents out while maintaining protection. The dentist tray to the right features grips for holding a spoon as well as finger recesses to pull it out. Finally, slots can be used to slide in and secure a product, for example memory chips.
3. Embossed or engraved text or images
Vacuum forming tools can be designed with embossed or engraved text. Text features can be used for brand promotion & presentation. To the right is a detail section of a tray lid with branding text.
For vacuum formed trays that are used in production lines or for transport, text or numbers can be extremely useful for quick identification of parts and for counting. To the right is a section of a memory chip tray with numbered slots.
4. Snap-shut features
Most people will know this feature from shop-bought sandwich packs, which hinge and snap shut or pop together easily. Clamshell packaging is most often made in vast quantities, but we can make small quantities for you. The packaging to the right is snap shut clamshell packaging for high spec scientific equipment.
5. Colours & Effects
A range of colours is available, but did you know that vacuum formed parts can be made from plastics sheets with other coatings & finishes ?
Parts can be made with standard finishes like gloss & matt, but also mirror, pinseal & carbon fibre effect for some materials.
In addition to Antistatic or conductive grades to protect static-sensitive parts & UV stabilised grades, items can be made from flocked plastic to improve the appearance of your parts - view our materials guide.
Secondary operations - even more possibilities
If it isn't possible to design your required features within the possibilities of the vacuum forming process, we can add features like cable holes, slots, apertures, handles and custom shaped outlines to your parts by machining, press or roller cutting them afterwards. Find out what can be achieved with vacuum forming finishing methods.
If you need help or advice on a subject not listed above or you'd prefer to have your question answered specifically, please contact us.
We also have a lot more vacuum forming advice for you to explore, or if you're ready to benefit from our excellent design service, just