The purpose of thermo moulding is to shape plastic sheets and rods. Typical areas of application are curved signs and exhibitions, screens, lamp shades and curved pipes.
During thermo moulding of plastic, sheets/rods are heated slowly until they are soft and "adequately" mouldable. The soft plastic is then placed in a mould and cooled. The plastic stays in the new shape, unless it is reheated.
Thermo moulding is also known as heat moulding.
Many plastic materials are suitable for thermo moulding. In principle, all types of thermo plastic can be used, but not all are equally suitable, since the temperature area for soft plastic is quite small. The material hardens before it is placed in the mould.
Acrylic, PC, PS and PVC are easy thermo mouldable materials.
Thermo moulding of sheets almost results in the same as folding a piece of paper, for instance into a pipe or funnel. However, the most common shapes are semi-circles and raised corners.
Heat moulding of sheets is ideal for prototypes and small quantities, since the tool/mould usually is cheap to manufacture. Large serial productions are also possible, but the costs for tools are higher, partly in order to achieve uniform results, and partly in order to reduce the manufacture time.
For thermo moulding of pipes, it is necessary to ensure that the pipe does not collapse during bending. First, the pipe is heated and a flexible spring is placed inside the pipe. Then the pipe is placed in the mould and the spring is removed once the plastic is hard.
Hot bending: Plastic sheets are heated over a bridge wire and bent along a line (see the section on hot bending).
The acrylic is pressed onto a mould by means of vacuum. The plastic is then stretched like a balloon, resulting in a diverse item thickness lengthwise. Vacuum moulding is e. g. used for disposable plastic packaging.
Vacuum moulding is often used to make complex 3D items, however the tools are costly and not all materials are suitable for vaccum moulding, for instance thick materials with many holes.
Induflex does not use the vacuum moulding technique.
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