When you look at the hood of a piece of machinery or the bumper of a truck what do you think it’s made of? Most likely you’re thinking it’s a piece of painted steel; and if it’s rusting you’re absolutely right. But what if it didn’t have to be steel, it didn’t have to rust, and it didn’t have to be painted? Well then it would be thermoformed. Thermoforming gives companies the ability to create a part that won’t rust, is cheaper, and lighter than steel. Oh, and it comes out of the mold with a show quality finish.

Thermoforming Overview

Thermoformed parts are made by taking a solid sheet of plastic, heating it until it is pliable and sucking it down against a mold. Because the plastic in a thermoformed piece is never completely melted, means the plastic can retain its quality finish, unlike a steel piece that must be painted after it is made. This means that a thermoformed piece can save the end user huge costs in post finishing. Not only that but the parts are actually made of a solid color plastic, meaning that any scratches and nicks are not as noticeable or prone to rust like a steel piece would be. Also, unlike steel, thermoformed parts won’t dent.

Once a thermoformed part leaves the mold there are a couple different secondary processes that it can go through to produce just the right part. For one, the part may be CNC trimmed, cutting out any open areas of the piece and giving the edges a smooth feel. The part may also be Ultrasonic welded, where it can be bonded with other plastic pieces to create a solid part, much in the way conventional welding joins two pieces of metal. Thermoformed parts are a great solution for panel pieces such has hoods, dash panels, covers, shrouds, and fenders. In most cases these sorts of pieces require low quantities which is just right for thermoforming.

  • Are able to do large size projects with 12" x 12" - 48" x 24" part sre with 30" draw
  • Doesn’t require secondary finishing processes
  • Can be made to be UV stable
  • Won’t rust, dent, or scratch thru the color
  • 5 axis CNC routing
  • Engineering, design and prototyping
  • Mold and fixture manufacturing capable
  • Higher part cost than other processes
  • Limiting on size/draw


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Dale Knuth

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