Vacuum Forming Mold Types
Choosing a Vacuum Forming Mold type
The first step in the process of vacuum forming is to have your mold created, which is also known as tooling. Whether you’re a new entrepreneur looking for a one-off mold to create a product, or a seasoned plastics thermoformer, vacuum forming starts with a mold.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider different types of materials for tooling.
Wood/MDF – Fabricated Tools
Wooden tools show joints and tend to wear out more quickly than other materials. That’s why wood/MDF is best for smaller production runs, making widgets or teaching the basics of the technology as opposed to producing usable parts that can stand the test of time.
Cast or Molded Tool
Cast resins are ideal for larger production runs because resin tools can be sanded to a very smooth finish. Fiberglass can result in good quality tools but there are two key things to watch out for: a) the tool overheating and b) the need for internal support to prevent the tool from collapsing. Plaster tools are the most difficult to work with because they are fragile and can be difficult to mount.
Ceramic Vacuum Forming Tool
For those in the know, it is often said that Ceramic vacuum forming molds offer the best of both worlds. When built in the proprietary Prestige Tooling process, using high quality ingredients, our Ceramic molds rival cast or machined aluminum in longevity. Cycle times are slightly slower than water cooled tooling, but mold cost and lead times are a fraction of an aluminum tool. Ceramic vacuum forming molds hold up long after wood, fiberglass, or cast epoxy tools have been worn out or need repair.
Cast aluminum tools may require some finishing to achieve a blemish free surface. The finished tool is very strong and can produce 100,000 or more parts, so it’s ideal for large production runs. Some large tools are cast and then often CNC machined to the exact size because this is more cost effective than machining solid aluminum. The drawback, of course, is two-fold. This process is costly, and the leads times are often measured in months.
CNC Machined Aluminum
CNC machined aluminum is the best material for large production runs and intricate form molds. It is hard wearing and produces fine detailed vacuum forms. Typical grades of aluminum suitable for machining are HE15, also known as 2014, or HE30, which is also known as 6082. Again, mold cost and leads times make machined aluminum inferior to our Ceramic vacuum forming molds in all but very high volume scenarios.
For any questions or further insight, don’t hesitate to call Prestige Tooling.